By GREGORY N. HEIRES
For three decades, Sherif Fawzy devoted himself to his job at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but didn’t take any particular interest in the union.
He was okay with paying his dues, recognizing that the union fulfilled its responsibility to negotiate periodic wage increases and protect his rich packet of benefits. But he felt no need to get involved.
His outlook changed a few years ago after DC 37 successfully defend him against unfounded disciplinary charges by managers.
That’s also when he decided to educate himself about labor law and his contract.
One day, while checking out the union’s website, he learned he was entitled to take courses for free at the City University of New York.
And so he enrolled.
Fawzy, an engineer who works in the Dept. of Subway Car Equipment at the MTA, is one of the nearly 30 DC 37 members in the first graduating class of the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. He studied public- and private-sector labor law, labor history and contract negotiation.
Fawzy, 58, is a Christian who fled religious persecution in Egypt after earning his engineering degree at Alexandria University he immigrated to the United States.
While fluent in English, Fawzy was inclined to drop out of Cornell because he struggled with the technical legal and labor terms he encountered in his studies.
His four adult sons suggested that he abandon his studies, but he stuck with the program in part at his wife’s insistence.
They all joined him at the June 14 graduation ceremony. And so much for the concern about his command of English: He earned his certificate with a 4.0 GPA.
“Education is a weapon,” said Fawzy, who from the moment he opened his text books started to help out coworkers who faced disciplinary problems or needed help understanding DC 37’s economic agreement, the union’s working conditions contract, and the MTA workers’ unit contract, which addresses specific matters related to the jobs of members of his local union, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Technical Professional Employees Local 3652. He makes a special point of encouraging members to take advantage of the union’s education benefits.
Members showed their appreciation for Fawzy’s help earlier this year as they elected him—unopposed—as secretary-treasurer of the local.