DC 37 Council Rep Leo Morris informs CUNY workers at John Jay College about their proposed contract, which calls for a 8.24 percent wage increase over 52 months. The union many meetings around the city to explain the terms of the contract to members. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera.
By GREGORY N. HEIRES
DC 37’s citywide CUNY campaign is providing the union’s 10,000 members working in the city’s public university system the chance to learn about their proposed contract and to ask questions about bread-and-butter issues affecting them.
A 45-member union team is carrying out the information blitz to ensure members are able to make an informed vote on the tentative economic agreement.
Union representatives have addressed members at campus, local executive board and general membership meetings, and a conference of an Asian labor coalition.
Besides informing members about the provisions of the contract, union representatives are instructing them how to obtain their ballot if they have not yet received one in the mail.
The independent American Arbitration Association is handling the mail ballot vote. Anyone who hasn’t receive an information packet with a ballot should call AAA at 800-529-5218 as soon as possible. Ballots must reach AAA by 9 a.m. on Dec. 18, when the vote will be tabulated.
“We are reminding members, especially in this last week of outreach, to contact the AAA if they have not received a ballot,” said Barbara Edmonds, director of field operations.
On Dec. 7, DC 37 Rep Leo Morris led a union team at four hour-long informational sessions at John Jay College in Manhattan. He summarized the contract, and then the team took questions from members.
“I think it’s a good contract,” said College Assistant Debra Spivey, a 30-year- employee and former secretary of Local 2054. said.
She said was encouraged by the campus outreach. She said she couldn’t recall the union holding campus-wide contract meetings before now, she said.
“I am going to go around to my coworkers and sell the contract,” she said.
Local 2627 member Anthony Chambers, an information technology specialist, said he was happily surprised that the union reached an agreement so soon on the contract. In the last round of bargaining, talks dragged on for seven, primarily because of the Bloomberg administration’s failure to take negotiations seriously. DC 37 wrapped up talks on the current agreement in just two bargaining sessions.
Chambers, a shop steward who has worked 15 years at CUNY, said he was encouraged by the union’s outreach.
“When we have meetings, they are always very informative,” Chambers said. “We need more of them.”
Edmonds expressed her hope that the outreach effort will encourage members to become more active in the union. The contract ratification campaign reflects earlier grassroots efforts, such the creation of Member Action Teams at CUNY, as well as the mobilizations for the previous CUNY contract and the DC 37 economic agreement affecting nearly 100,000 union members.
“We continue to work hard to reach our members—and not just when there is a contract mobilization effort,” said Edmonds, noting that the union has made a major push in recent years to create a core group of union activists and workplace leaders.
The 52-month agreement provides for a compounded total wage increase of 8.24 percent.
The term of the contract lasts from Feb. 1, 2017, to May 31, 2021.
Agreement Protects Health Care Coverage
DC 37 and the City University of New York agreed on Nov. 1 to the tentative contract.
The agreement preserves the premium-free health-care coverage of members and will include back pay. It also protects the health benefits of CUNY retirees.
In addition, the deal calls for CUNY to increase its annual contribution for union benefits.
The agreement calls for 2 percent raises at the beginning of February in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
By extending the contract by four months, the city will have the payroll savings to provide crucial funds for the union’s popular prescription drug benefit — which has struggled for years to cope with drug price increases above inflation — and the DC 37 Education Fund.
Beginning Feb. 1, the union will start considering how to use extra funds in an “Additional Compensation Fund” and an “Equity Fund” — together worth .40 percent of payroll — to reduce pay inequities and address specific needs of job titles.
The contract also includes money for “additions to gross,” which are non-wage increases for benefits like uniform allowances, reimbursements for license fees, night shift differentials, certifications, job level increases and longevities. Longevities are payments above the base rate of pay, based on years of service in a title or occupational group.
The CUNY contract will include new language to help the union address the fallout from the anti-labor U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which allows non-members to receive union services without paying dues and aims to weaken the collective bargaining progress.
The agreement incorporates provisions of a new state labor law into the CUNY contract. The contract will permit union representatives to meet with new employees during the workday to explain the benefit of joining DC 37. It preserves the union’s role as the exclusive bargaining agent for municipal employees.
“The new, Janus-related language will allows us to improve our presence at employee orientations and help us engage our members as soon as they are hired,” Edmonds said.
Incorporating the new labor law into the contract will give the union and its members double protection from legal attacks by extreme right interests.
The contract covers DC 37 members in locals 375, 384, 983, 1407, 1597, 1797, 2054, and 2627 who work on the university system’s 24 campuses.
DC 37 managed to preserve the premium-free health-care coverage of members because CUNY has agreed to follow a $1.1 billion health-care savings deal negotiated by the city and Municipal Labor Committee. City and union negotiators worked a similar agreement in the last round of bargaining.
The DC 37 Blog is an official online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 121,000 public services workers in New York City and surrounding areas.