POLITICS

The Unfulfilled Dream

April 17, 2018 // 0 Comments

A half century after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination is an appropriate time to reflect upon the accomplishments of his movement. Undeniably, the struggle led by King resulted in vital civil rights and voting rights gains for blacks, along with protections against housing and job discrimination. But the economic advancement of minorities and the poor that King advocated never came about. And since his death, our country has veered toward plutocracy and authoritarianism that provides little reason for hope. At the end of his life, King was leading the Poor People’s Campaign. His criticism of the economic divide and opposition to the Vietnam War clearly shook the country’s levers of power. Today, King has a saint-like aura. But back then, his popularity was far from universal. “A man of peace, he died violently,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote in a New York Times op-ed [More...]

Cuomo Signs Legislation Strengthening Workers’ Rights

April 13, 2018 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday signed landmark legislation to strengthen the rights of working men and women in New York state. This new law increases access to and protects union membership in New York’s public-sector workplaces in anticipation of an adverse ruling in the pending Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME. Additionally, the law provides safeguards against the deliberate actions taken by the federal government that continue to undermine the efforts of organized labor across this country. Cuomo described the new law as a response to a long-term campaign by the extreme right to destroy unions. “Too often, and at the hands of this federal administration, we are seeing the labor movement going backwards. In New York it is a different story, and our efforts to protect working men and women are moving labor forward, making the workplace fairer and [More...]

Union Action: PEOPLE Power

April 11, 2018 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES Our political system is dominated by corporations, lobbyists and wealthy individuals. As the 2016 election cycle wound down, five individual donors had spent more than $210 million on political contributions while labor, which represent nearly 15 million members, donated $132 million to super PACs and another $35 million on federal elections. Republican casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife alone contributed $52.9 million. The political strength of the labor movement depends a great deal on our “people power. Volunteers take part in the union’s get-out-to vote work, such as phone banking, attending rallies and going door-to-door to encourage members to vote. Across the country members help fortify our political strength by supporting the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ own political action fund — known as PEOPLE. John [More...]

The Court Attack

April 5, 2018 // 0 Comments

By HENRY GARRIDO In the next few months, we expect the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Janus v. AFSCME, a court case that aims to cripple public employee unions. Janus argues that the mandatory collection of union dues violates the individual’s constitutional right to freedom of speech. A ruling against unions would entitle non-members to union benefits for free, placing a great financial burden on unions. But my concern here is not to get wrapped up in an abstract philosophical or legal discussion. I want to make clear what’s at stake and to talk about our long-term strategy for living in a post-Janus world if the court goes against us. What Janus is really about is politics and power. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is bankrolling the case. The foundation is tied to the State Policy Network, which brings together nearly 100 right-wing think tanks whose goal is to [More...]

NY State Attorney General Aims to Block Trump from Politicizing the 2020 Census

April 3, 2018 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship status in the 2020 census. Union leaders and members, community and immigrant groups, the Oregon attorney general, U.S. Congressional members and other elected officials joined Schneiderman at a press conference hosted by DC 37 to denounce the inclusion of the question in the census. Schneiderman and other speakers described the Trump administration’s action as a political attack on blue states like New York and California, which have large number of immigrant residents. The U.S. Constitution requires the U.S. Census Bureau to determine “the whole number of persons in each state” every 10 years. The inclusion of the citizenship question would drive immigrants underground, leading to an undercount of [More...]

More School Crossing Guards Needed

March 31, 2018 // 0 Comments

By ALFREDO ALVARADO At a March 14 press conference on the steps of City Hall, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson joined Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I in demanding the city provide more funding to hire additional School Crossing Guards. “You can’t put a price on the safety of our children,” said Johnson, who is serving his first term as Council Speaker. He called for expedited funding to hire more school crossing guards.“There should not be a debate about this issue,” said Francois. “Let’s do what is right for our kids and let’s do it right now.” The local president wants to ensure that every school is adequately staffed with School Crossing Guards. The city employs only 2,546 School Crossing Guards, leaving many schools without a guard. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan requires hiring an additional 100 full-time crossing guard [More...]

Union Organizing: a Civil Right

March 23, 2018 // 0 Comments

Now that the arguments were made — on both sides — in the Janus v. AFSCME case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 26, the waiting game for the ruling by the court begins. However, we want to make clear that our rights shall not be dictated by a majority of nine in a single legal case. Importantly, our right to organize, collectively bargain with our employers, and stand together as a solid bloc, is a civil right, one that cannot be denied or taken from us. A quote from the American Civil Liberties Union’s on its own stand on collective bargaining says it best: “Unions facilitate and enhance the ability of their members to exercise core civil liberties, such as the First Amendment rights of association, speech and petition.” The U.S. Constitution protects the right to association for individuals with common interests to unite and form organizations to fight — and [More...]

Union Benefit Fund Takes on Big Pharma

March 19, 2018 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES As pharmaceutical companies continue their rampant hikes of drug prices and ignore the dangers of their products, DC 37 and other unions’ benefit funds, states, counties and cities are turning to the courts to level the field for our members and the public at large. In recent months, DC 37’s Health & Security Plan has filed 18 lawsuits against the generic drug industry for illegal practices and price gouging. The skyrocketing cost of these drugs flies in the face of the supposed purpose of generic companies, which is to offer less expensive alternatives to brand-name drugs. These lawsuits contend that generic manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate prices in violation of federal and state law. Taking Big Pharma to court over opioids The union is also part of a separate lawsuit filed in December that seeks damages from opioid manufacturers and [More...]

The Year of the Woman!

March 9, 2018 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS Labor kicked off Women’s History Month with a spirited forum urging women to resist, insist and persist in following their passion and achieving visibility and inclusion. “The energy in this room is amazing and what is about to happen will be magical. This is the Year of the Woman!” said Lelani Levin of SSEU Local 371, who co-chairs the Women’s Committee with Carmen Charles, president of Local 420. The diverse and outspoken panel included leaders from various fields: AFSCME Secretary Treasurer Elissa McBride, the Honorable Lisa Ottley, Dr. Una Clarke, City Council member Adrienne Adams, Dr. Sophia Lubin, Judaline Cassidy and Gessie Thompson. Jahmila Joseph, the union’s assistant associate director, enjoyed an “Oprah moment” as moderator of the discussion. “If you want something, go after it, if it’s not there make it yourself,” said Cassidy, a [More...]

DC 37 Leaders Meet With New City Council Committee Chairs

February 21, 2018 // 0 Comments

By ALFREDO ALVARADO DC 37 has hosted a number of meetings with new City Council leaders throughout the month of February to discuss issues of importance to union members and all New York working families. “It’s a great opportunity to express some of our concerns to the men and women of the City Council and to continue or, in some cases, start a dialogue with them,” said Local 768 President Fitz Reid, who attended the first session on Feb. 7 with Local 436 President Judith Arroyo and Mark Levine, the new chair of the City Council’s Health Committee. “It’s important to have an ongoing dialogue with DC 37,” said Levine. “We have to listen to our municipal workers.” In addition to the session with Levine, union leaders met with: Carlina Rivera, chair of the Hospitals Committee Alicka Samuel, chair of the Public Housing Committee Mark Treyger, chair of the Education [More...]