By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Local 1549 members met to prepare a fight back against the efforts of right-wing groups to destroy public service unions and dismantle government services.
During the conference held on Feb. 3, union leaders briefed members about the U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME. This case threatens to financially starve public sector unions by allowing workers who are not members to receive services for free.
“We face perhaps the greatest attack in the history of unions,” Local 1549 Executive Vice President Alma Roper said. “We need to stand up and be strong.”
Ralph Palladino, the local’s 2nd vice president, spoke of the threat posed by the right-wing network and the efforts of the Trump administration and the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress to deeply scale back funding for Medicaid and other services. After passing a new tax law that provides major cuts for the wealthy and corporations, GOP politicians are now looking to gut Medicare and Social Security, benefits that workers pay for through payroll deductions.
“They basically want to dismantle unions and make some government services unavailable,” said Clerical Associate Lionel Layne. “They want to take away our voice.”
DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido echoed these concerns. He urged members to attend the Working People’s Day of Action at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan on Feb. 24.
The rally is part of a nationwide mobilization spearheaded by DC 37’s national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The campaign, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., while he supported striking AFSCME African-American sanitation workers.
The mobilization aims to push back against a rigged political system controlled by the economic elite, whose goal is to gain more wealth and power at the expense of working people. Their most recent political victory was the Trump tax cut, which overwhelmingly benefits corporations and upper class.
The local’s 17th annual Local 1549 Advocacy & Political Action Conference covered a lot of ground. The conference reflected the spirit of the union’s long-term Leading the Way project, which aims to mobilize members and increase the political strength of DC 37.
Among the matters discussed by guests, local leaders and staffers were:
- local, state and national political issues,
- an outreach to encourage members to become more involved and aware of the possible negative impact of Janus,
- legislation that would help the union representatives sign up new city workers and inform them about the union’s rich benefits package,
- rent stabilization, and
- budget issues concerning services provided by union workers.
“We want our members to become more active and aware of our union’s history,” Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez said. “Our benefits were not a gift to us. They are the result of struggle. We are looking for new activists to join our never-ending work to improve the lives of working families.”