Private Sector Members Add to Union Power
By GREGORY N. HEIRES and SARA HAAS
New York labor history is being made this fall as District Council 1707, which represents 20,000 private-sector members, joins forces with District Council 37, the city’s largest public employees union.
As a result, the six unions that made up DC 1707 — Locals 95, 107, 205, 215, 253, and 389 — will comprise a new, private-sector division within DC 37, bringing DC 37’s total membership to 150,000. Each local union’s structure and leadership remain unchanged.
“We are delighted to welcome these hardworking members, who provide vital services in the private sector to the city’s largest union of public employees,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “This unification signals a new era in the fight for workers’ rights in New York.”
“In unifying with our brothers and sisters at DC 37, we have more resources and more power to push to new heights our fight for dignity and respect,” said Kim Medina, the former DC 1707 executive director who now becomes head of the new DC 37 Non-Profit and Private Sector Division.
The unification required approval by the executive board of DC 37’s national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which gave a thumbs-up in June.
“AFSCME was built on the core principle that workers do better when we focus on our collective interests and put unity ahead of any one individual,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders wrote in a letter to members. “Unifying District Council 1707 and District Council 37, two great unions in their own right, will build even greater power and result in more victories for you and all workers in New York City.”
The unification yielded early, positive results this summer when members of Local 205’s early childhood educators who work for non-profit organizations emerged from the bargaining table with a long-sought path to wage parity with their counterparts in New York City’s public schools. DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido and Medina led the negotiations.
On Aug. 1, Local 205 members overwhelmingly ratified the agreement, which will boosts their salaries by as much as 30 percent. The agreement, which was worked out after intensive talks by the unions, the Mayor’s Office, the New York City Council, and Day Care Council of New York City, also provides additional compensation for non-certified teachers and support staff.
Garrido described the pact that affects more than 4,000 day care educators, as “the first demonstration of how unification can increase the bargaining and political power of New York City’s public- and private-sector workers.”
He noted that the convergence of public- and private-sector unions within DC 37 creates organizing opportunities that are essential to building union power at a time when political forces are trying to erode workers’ rights. “There is only one clear way to beat back union-busting: organize, organize, organize,” he said.
As part of an overall effort to build a stronger union, DC 37 embarked upon a campaign called Child Care Time Is Now to organize thousands of early childhood educators who do not yet belong to a union. Organizers have held worksite meetings and created a website for anyone interested in the effort — childcaretimeisnow.org.
We encourage you to be part of our organizing drives to build our union and shape the future for workers. Please contact the Organizing Department at 212.815.1095 to volunteer.