Despite Pandemic, Union Members Votes, Wins New Contract

By MIKE LEE

While COVID-19 raged throughout New York City, the union continued its vital mission in serving the members.

An example was the successful negotiation by the DC 37 Research and Negotiations Department with the ADAPT Community Network in April, which includes members of the union’s Social Service Employees Local 215.

After a series of intense negotiations with the union and a strong campaign under difficult conditions, ADAPT workers voted unanimously to ratify the contract. 

Winning this battle during the lockdown was due in part to grassroots organizing when safety was a key component in informing Local 215 members of the proposed contract, and getting out the vote.

At ADAPT, workers are dispersed in 26 different facilities, also known as houses, along with a daycare center.

“What we did was go to the main house, and there we got a member to contact the other house that connects to that house,” said Gisella Hernandez, a shop steward with the local, and a key organizer in getting out the contract vote.

“Before the pandemic happened, what we usually do is go to the site to set up,” said Nichole Coleman, the local’s rep. “But due to COVID, we set up a committee and decided to do something different.”

“We hit the ground running, sending out text messages explaining the process,” she said. “I sent out information to people by cell phone, texts, or email about the vote.”

The three-year contract, which runs from June 1, 2018, through May 30, 2021, provides for a 3% increase for four titles, dependent upon length of service, including habilitation assistants and residence program specialists, with a $200 lump sum signing bonus and one-year retroactive pay to 2019, along with a modified grievance procedure.

Since 1947, ADAPT, which has facilities throughout the city, is a major non-profit that provides programs and services for people with disabilities. The workers provide services, which include education, recreational, health, and residential programs, for those in need.

Local 215 represents members at casework and group work agencies throughout the city, providing a variety of essential services for children, senior citizens, and others with special needs. Many members work for mental health organizations. Other Local 215 members deal with the needs of the learning impaired and disabled, and are involved with children in foster homes.

“We all were happy about it. We all worked together. Everything went well,” Coleman said.

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