Union Carries Out Town Hall Meetings

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Union activists (from left) Denise King, Jennifer Jones Elhag and Evelyn Brown helped sign up members at a May 2 meeting at the Human Resources Administration in Brooklyn. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

There was standing room only as more than 300 union members jammed the conference room at the offices of the Human Resources Administration in Brooklyn for a town hall style meeting.

Members came to hear DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido talk about the fight with the city for a new contract and the court decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case, which is expected by the end of June.

If the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court rules against AFSCME, it could financially cripple DC 37 and public employee unions throughout the country. Janus argues that the mandatory collection of union dues violates the individual’s constitutional right to freedom of speech.

“This decision is the start of a bigger attack,” said Garrido. He pointed to Wisconsin and how workers lost their collective bargaining power once it became a right to work state.

“They’re paying as much as $10,000 out of pocket for health care annually and don’t have the right to collective bargaining,” he said at the Brooklyn meeting.

Garrido also gave an update on contract negotiations with the city. “We need a raise and we need it now,” he said as the room erupted in applause. “We want respect and that respect comes at the bargaining table.”

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Local 1549 member Gwendolyn Willis signs her union card. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

At the negotiation table with the city, the union is also raising the issue of paid family leave. “City workers deserve paid family leave,” Garrido said.

Volunteer Member Organizers were also at the meeting. They passed out dozens of union cards and made sure they were filled out correctly.

“I might have already signed a union card, but I want to make sure so I’ll fill out another one,” said Local 1549 member Gwendolyn Willis. “I’m with my union 100 percent.”

The meeting on May 2 kicked off a month-long campaign to reach out to members before the Supreme Court decision. The next meeting will be held on Thursday, May 17, at Queens Medical Center in Flushing in the auditorium. There will be two sessions, starting at noon. For a complete list of meetings go to the union’s website at www.dc37.net.

The DC 37 Blog is an electronic publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 120,000 municipal workers in New York City.

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