By HENRY GARRIDO
We are pressing the city to work with us to wrap up negotiations for a new economic agreement that will affect 90,000 DC 37 members.
There is no reason to prolong negotiations, which has occurred too often in previous talks. The local economy is strong and the city is in good shape financially. A decent contract certainly won’t break the bank.
Too many of us are financially squeezed as we contend with the rising cost of rent, transportation, utilities, clothes and groceries.
We want relief — and fair compensation for our work.
As public employees, we often feel like an invisible workforce. Though our work usually goes unrecognized, we are proud to be the workers who deserve the most credit for making the city run.
Our expansive and efficient government services are one of the reasons New York City is able to attract tourists, businesses and families happy to call the city their home. Without a fairly compensated, well-trained, educated and dedicated workforce, the city could no longer be the world’s financial capital and such a vibrant cultural mecca.
Our demands include a three-year agreement, a fair and substantial wage increase, as well as increases of our meal and mileage allowances. These are standard pocketbook demands that we are usually able to resolve without a big fight with the city.
In this round, we are excited about pursuing a paid family leave benefit, which employers around the country are increasingly offering their workers. City managers and state employees already enjoy this benefit, which is an argument for us to be covered as well. The city has agreed to discuss this, so winning this coverage depends upon whether both parties are able to agree upon on a funding formula and specific provisions of the benefit.
Then we have some significant housekeeping demands.
Funding for the DC 37 Education Fund has been stuck at $25 per employee since the 1970s, which frankly is outrageous. We are asking for a $100 annual contribution.
Basically, the lion’s share of our education budget is for career development. This is particularly important because a large number of workers are expected to retire in the coming years and our new workers must be prepared to adapt to a changing workplace.
Protecting our Benefits
In negotiations, we always aim to protect and preserve our health-care and prescription drug benefits.
This round is no different.
But the rising cost of drugs and health care makes this part of our negotiations very tricky and complicated.
In the last round of bargaining, municipal unions and the city agreed to a $3.4 billion three-year health-care savings plan. This round, the city is pushing for a similar agreement. The deal must be negotiated by the Municipal Labor Committee, which handles agreements on health care for city unions.
We believe this problem of health care and prescription drug costs — already a sticking point in negotiations — will ultimately require intervention by the federal government to be fixed. Until then, we must do our best to work with the city on creative short-term solutions.
Meanwhile, we expect negotiations to pick up soon.
With your support, we will stand strong and fight for a good contract.
DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.