Town Hall Meetings: Creating a More Dynamic Union

Members came out in full force during a meeting on May 2 at the Human Resources Administration in Brooklyn to hear DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

There was standing room only as more than 300 DC 37 members jammed the conference room at the offices of the Human Resources Administration in Brooklyn.

They came to meet with Executive Director Henry Garrido and DC 37 local leaders to talk about workplace issues, the status of contract negotiations, and to learn about vital services and benefits offered by the union.

The May 2 event kicked off a month-long series of union town hall meetings at workplaces across the city.

DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido greets a member at the union Town Hall meeting in Brooklyn. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

Members listened intently as Garrido updated them on contract negotiations.

He expressed concern about the increasing cost of health care and emphasized the union’s commitment to preserving member benefits. His observation that “We need a raise and we need it now” drew an eruption of applause. And he made it clear that the union is pursuing paid family leave.

“City workers deserve paid family leave,” he said. (For more on contract negotiations, see page 2.)

Also on the agenda: the status of Janus v. AFSCME, the US Supreme Court case brought by a network of union-busters to undermine public employee bargaining rights.

“This case is the start of a bigger attack,” Garrido warned. He pointed to Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker and anti-worker state legislators virtually eliminated collective bargaining for most public-sector workers and slashed those workers’ benefits in 2011.

The result? “Wisconsin public employees are now paying as much as $10,000 out of pocket for health care annually” and teacher pay in the state has declined by 8.6 percent, Garrido said.

A member signs a union membership card at a DC 37 Town Hall meeting Human Resources Administration in Brooklyn. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera.

DC 37 activists were in attendance to pass out membership cards and ensure 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.”

Activist and Local 2054 member Nova Felder has been busy visiting worksites around the city, signing up members and encouraging them to attend meetings. “We have to make sure our members know what the issues are and that this is a critical point for our union,” said Felder, who was working at the Queens Medical Center.

In addition to the meeting at HRA in Brooklyn, town hall events were also held at the Queens Medical Center in Jamaica; Staten Island College, the Dept. of Education in Long Island City, and Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.

Garrido and union leaders will return to Brooklyn on Wednesday, June 6 at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St. For more information about union activities and events, visit http://www.dc37.net.

The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal employees in New York City.

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