Articles by Mike Lee

Union Mourns Intern Killed in Car Accident

January 16, 2019 // 0 Comments

By DIANE W. WILLIAMS The AFSCME family is stunned and saddened by the tragic death of 21-year-old Nadia Mourtaj, a 2018 summer intern in DC 37’s Organizing Department. Nadia and her sister Zeyneb, 15, were in a car accident on Dec. 31, in Charles County, Md. Zeyneb was killed on impact and Nadia died nine days later. They are survived by their mother, Sara Ghebre, and father, Abdelilah Mourtaj. “Nadia was a bright star whose enthusiasm for life and the labor movement was contagious,” said DC 37 organizer Nichole Laing, who helped train the young activist seen in this union video. After Nadia completed the internship, Organizing Dept. Director Barbara Terrelonge said, “Nadia visited New York City in September, marching with DC 37 in the annual Labor Day Parade.” “There were many reasons why I chose Nadia for AFSCME’s program, but what stood out to me was her extensive [More...]

AFSCME Members Join Federal Workers in Rally to End Government Shutdown

January 11, 2019 // 0 Comments

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders and Janice Fridie (District Council 20). Photo Credit: Lorenzo Soto. AFSCME members today joined furloughed federal workers in Washington, D.C., to call for an end to the government shutdown. Altogether, thousands of people marched from the headquarters of the AFL-CIO in downtown D.C. to the White House, demanding that 800,000 federal workers return to their jobs and receive their paychecks. “This shutdown is hurting our families and our communities,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “Public health is jeopardized. Consumer protection is compromised. Many national parks are overrun with garbage. Food assistance for low-income families is at risk.” Saunders was one of two dozen speakers outside the AFL-CIO who urged President Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to reopen the government. AFSCME represents about 3,000 federal workers. Janice [More...]

All aboard! Holiday Trains are a favorite at NY Botanical Garden

December 27, 2018 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS Under a canopy of verdant tropical flora, the annual Holiday Train Show is in full bloom at the New York Botanical Garden. The exhibit features 175 Lilliputian landmarks, ferries and famous bridges, all under the watchful eyes of Local 374 Quasi-Public Employees at the famed Bronx cultural institution. The NYBG staff of maintainers, attendant guards, custodians, and gardeners and others work behind the scenes to help make this traditional holiday display, unveiled in 1992, one of the most successful cultural exhibits in the city. The collection includes 25 G-scale trains and trolleys that travel over a half-mile of tracks through a cityscape built to rival any Pixar animation. This year children thrill to see a train’s caboose whiz past replicas of the Freedom Tower and the Oculus of Lower Manhattan, the latest models in the Botanical Gardens’ growing collection [More...]

Local 372 Calls Upon Governor Cuomo to Sign Pension Bill

December 23, 2018 // 0 Comments

Leaders of Local 372 are calling for Gov. Cuomo’s signature on a bill that would automatically enroll about 17,000 part-time, temporary employees in the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS) after they pass 90 days of employment. “This legislation would solve a widespread problem that hurts our most vulnerable workers – the loss of years’ worth of valuable retirement benefits that they were legally entitled to,” said Local 372 President Shaun Francois I. The way the system now operates, workers known as “optional employees” can opt-in to BERS, but unless they explicitly express their desire to do so, they are out of the system by default and accrue no benefits. And that’s been a source of financial pain for many of these employees, whose annual salaries average $25,500. “Many members mistakenly believe they are automatically enrolled in the pension system, and [More...]

Union Wins New Workers at NYC Health+Hospitals

December 5, 2018 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES A group of about 50 unrepresented public hospital workers recently voted to become DC 37 members. DC 37 and the Organization of Staff Analysis competed to represent the workers. The city’s Office of Collective Bargaining tabulated the vote on Nov. 9. The workers — whose title is patient representative — voted to join DC 37. Their mission at NYC Health+Hospitals is to advocate for patient rights. “I never had any experience with unions before,” said Patient Representative Mira Temer, who works at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. “It is nice to know that someone will be there if there is a problem.” But Temer said the rich benefits package of DC 37 is the main reason she voted for DC 37. She complained her household budget was financially pinched by an expensive prescription drug rider for her health-care plan. DC 37’s drug plan has a three-tier [More...]

We Will Never Forget

November 23, 2018 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES Today, we continue to do whatever we can to help our 9/11 heroes who are struggling with illnesses and fighting to stay alive. Ever since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the city had failed to grant thousands of EMS workers and other municipal workers sufficient sick time to deal with afflictions caused by their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. Thankfully, this injustice is finally over. After a series of negotiations with us last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to provide unlimited sick leave to these workers so they don’t have to choose between lifesaving medical treatment and losing their job. After exhausting their sick leave, some EMS workers have had to go to work after receiving chemotherapy the same day. Ensuring this coverage was a matter of fairness, equity — and simply doing what’s right. Firefighters, police [More...]

Union Wins New Crossing Guard Level 2 Jobs

November 22, 2018 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS A new agreement between the union, the city and the Police Department created a first-ever opportunity for promotion for Local 372 Schools Crossing Guards to advance to Level 2 supervisors positions. NYPD promoted about 100 Crossing Guards Level 2s, the new position created to replace precinct Coordinators. They oversee day-to-day operations and assignments for the city’s corps of 2,276 School Crossing Guards. “Never before in the history of this local has there been an annualized, promotional opportunity created for our members who are School Crossing Guards,” said Board of Education Employees Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I. “Those who NYPD hired for Level 2 jobs are experienced Crossing Guards who know the job well and safeguard the lives of New York City’s 1.1 million school children and pedestrians every day.” Creating the Level 2 position [More...]

SSEU Local 371 Activists Train to be Workplace Leaders

November 22, 2018 // 0 Comments

By MIKE LEE Hundreds of enthusiastic and committed SSEU Local 371 delegates packed DC 37 union headquarters for two consecutive Saturday training sessions as part of the local’s effort to better serve its members. Braving heavy rains, hundreds showed up at the events as local delegates gathered for a series of workshops and training sessions to help bolster the union’s campaign. The poor weather of the first session and the early morning hours of the second did not dampen the participation, said Armenta Weekes, the local’s vice president for organization, who along with others planned the successful trainings on Oct. 27 and Nov. 3. “Our attendance is always good. Despite the inclement weather — two weeks in a row — delegates are coming out,” she said. “The purpose of this training is to give our delegates the means to educate, energize and inform,” said SSEU Local 371 [More...]

Dept. of Education Employees Honored at Ceremony at DC 37

November 15, 2018 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS More than 1,000 Dept. of Education employees in a dozen DC 37 locals were recognized for two decades of dedicated service to the city and its 1.1 million schoolchildren at a Quality of Work Life ceremony at union headquarters Nov. 14. “A child will remember your smile, your words of encouragement, and the kindness you show. That interaction may be the only positive adult interaction some children have at that time in their lives,” Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said. Carranza celebrated with the audience made up of school support staff who had reached 20 years of employment at the city Dept. of Education. “You really care about the children, our schools and our city,” he told the staffers. “Gracias! Thank you for a job well done!” The QWL ceremony coincided with National Education Support Professionals Day and honored school support staff [More...]

DC 37 Played Key Role in Statewide Elections

November 9, 2018 // 0 Comments

By MIKE LEE In an election that featured one of the highest voter midterm turnouts in recent history, the efforts of DC 37’s vaunted Green Machine were pivotal in finally breaking the Albany legislative gridlock by helping several local state senate candidates to victory. The state’s top elected officials were all re-elected with union help. Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, while New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand scored easy victories. Letitia James, the city’s Public Advocate and a stalwart DC 37 ally, was elected New York State’s first African American Attorney General, winning by a landslide. “Tonight the working men and women of New York spoke loudly and clearly about our values, our priorities, and how we want to run our state,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “In record numbers, [More...]