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Henry Garrido

Executive Director, District Council 37

Henry Garrido
Executive Director
Organizing to create a more powerful unionDC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido is bringing an organizing culture back to the union.

Worried about right-wing attacks on organized labor throughout the country, Garrido has focused on encouraging greater member participation and rebuilding the union since the DC 37 Executive Board appointed him in 2014 to finish out the term of his predecessor, Lillian Roberts, who retired.

“We cannot sit back,” said Garrido. In November 2015, DC 37 Delegates elected Garrido to a three-year term, which began in January 2016.

“Working families have been getting hammered for four decades,” Garrido said. “Unions are really the last standing progressive institution in the country that has the power and will to fight to protect and improve the standard of living.”

After losing more than 10,000 members because of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s austerity policies, DC 37 is turning the corner. Since Garrido took over, membership has grown by 4,000.

The union worked out an agreement with the city’s new administration to contract in several thousand information technology workers. It is bringing in new members by identifying city employees misclassified as managers who should belong to the union. The union is working with the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to help welfare recipients in the city’s job training program find real jobs.

Garrido’s deep concern about economic injustice and poverty is one of the reasons he decided to dedicate his life to the labor movement, and he has brought that concern to the bargaining table in tense contract negotiations, most recently with the City University of New York, where thousands of DC 37 members earn less than $15 an hour.

Garrido learned about the value of unions from his mother, a garment worker, who used to tell him about the indignities and abuses on the factory floors in the city. His exposure to the economic exploitation in his native country, the Dominican Republic, also instilled in him a desire to help the downtrodden, something he has acted upon as executive director.

Fighting for better pay

Last year, Garrido worked with Board of Education Employees Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I on an agreement to boost the pay of many low-wage employees, primarily in the schools. Over the long term, the union hopes to win greater pay equity for women. In early January, Garrido accompanied Bill de Blasio at union headquarters when he announced a $15 an hour minimum wage for 50,000 low-wage city employees and contracted employees. Many of the 20,000 regular city workers will be covered by the pay increase. Perhaps the greatest initiative of the Garrido administration is its “Union Strong” campaign to conduct one-on-one conversations with 50,000 members and to urge thousands of agency-fee payers to join the union. Agency-fee payers are workers who haven’t joined but pay a “fair share” for union services, such as collective bargaining and workplace protections. DC 37 staffers and activists have signed up thousands of agency-fee payers through the Union Strong campaign.

The initiative is part of a nationwide undertaking by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, DC 37’s parent union, in response to a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could devastate public employee unions and the millions of workers they support. A decision in favor of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association would overturn the fair share rule, which has been upheld in the courts for more than four decades.

With a keen interest in public policy and administration, Garrido said he has enjoyed several new responsibilities as executive director.

He is now a trustee on the city’s Workforce Investment Board, which advises the mayor on jobs and economic development. He serves on the board of the New York City Employees Retirement System, where he is a critic of outlandish investment fees. He is a member of the board of directors of the Dominican Republic Parade, a position that helps the union improve its community ties.

At the union, Garrido chairs the DC 37 Annuity Fund. And he is devoting special attention to the DC 37 Health & Security Plan to study how to strengthen the union’s prescription drug benefit, which is being battered by the rising costs of medications.

“Leading DC 37 is a calling for me,” Garrido said. “The union is the best vehicle our society has to improve the lives of working families. That’s why I am so passionate about our mission.”

— Gregory N. Heires
Public Employee Press