the DC 37 Officers
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District Council 37
An organizer and strategist
DC 37 Executive Director Henry A. Garrido is the first Latino to head District Council 37, the largest municipal employees union in New York City. A native of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Garrido assumed the position on Dec. 31, 2014.
As executive director, Mr. Garrido, 43, leads a union of 121,000 municipal workers who come from around the world and are employed in 1,000 titles. The union’s members work in mayoral agencies, the public schools, city libraries and cultural institutions, the Health and Hospitals Corp., the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, School Construction Authority, Emergency Medical Services, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the Unified Court System and New York Law School.
Before becoming executive director, Mr. Garrido served for four years as associate director during the administration of longtime DC 37 leader Lillian Roberts, who retired in 2014.
As associate director from 2011 to 2014, Mr. Garrido was involved in DC 37 policy and administration. His responsibilities included testifying at the City Council and State Legislature on union issues, administering the DC 37 field staff and coordinating the union’s white paper project, which addressed city waste by investigating contracting out and identifying revenue sources. He also was involved in an initiative on sustainability and green jobs in New York State.
Mr. Garrido helped establish a housing program for municipal employees, which he administered. The Municipal Employees Housing Program handles over $3 million in grants for first-time homebuyers, foreclosure prevention services and an educational and counseling program. The program also provides a preference for municipal employees in all city- and state-sponsored apartment lotteries.
When Ms. Roberts became executive director in 2002, she soon assigned Garrido to work on the white paper project. The project produced reports on the skyrocketing cost of contracting out; ways to balance the city budget while preserving services; the harmful impact that Health and Hospitals Corp. restructuring would have on public hospitals, and $121 million in savings that could result from keeping work in house and reducing the use of temp workers.
The project included media outreach and political work with the City Council to draw public attention to contracting waste. DC 37 also arranged for a hearing at union headquarters before the city’s Congressional Delegation.
Eventually, the city adopted some of the union’s recommendations, including capturing neglected revenue through fees for cell phone antennas and billboards. The budget policy of the current administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio aims to curb wasteful contracting spending.
Perhaps the greatest successes of the white paper project involved exposing the hundreds of millions of dollars of waste in the troubled upgrade of the emergency 911 system and the corrupt CityTime payroll automation project, which came in years late as its costs mushroomed from $73 million to over $700 million. Eight CityTime contractors were convicted of fraud in schemes that included laundering money abroad.
In his final year as associate director, Mr. Garrido helped settle a new 88-month economic agreement that preserved the membership’s premium-free health-care coverage and includes a total wage increase of 10.4 percent. He also implemented a computerized grievance tracking system at the union and led an internal organizing drive to sign up 14,000 dues payers who had not enrolled as members.
Garrido attributes his progressive political outlook to his mother, a garment worker, who used to tell him about the indignities and abuses on the factory floor. The garment workers union gave her protection and a voice, leading Mr. Garrido to understand the importance of the labor movement at a young age.
In 2003, Mr. Garrido finished his college studies at City College of New York, where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree in architecture. But he decided not to pursue a career in architecture because he enjoyed the stability and mission of his union job.
While at DC 37, Mr. Garrido also completed the Harvard Law School’s Trade Union Program, which helps union leaders develop strategies for organizing and responding to employer attacks. The program now uses the DC 37 white paper project as a case study of union work on public policy.
As the leader of the flagship affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Mr. Garrido has assumed the responsibility of heading DC 37 at a time when the labor movement — particularly in the public sector — is under attack around the country. His goals include expanding the membership, strengthening DC 37’s ties to the community, improving services and encouraging members to get more involved in union activities.
“Unions have been reactive and on the defensive for too long,” Mr. Garrido said. “We have to be more aggressive about carrying out our agenda. We need to take advantage of the crisis we face to rebuild the union movement.”
His two children, Christopher and Leslie, are his greatest joy.
District Council 37
A promoter of unity
DC 37 President Eddie Rodriguez presides over Executive Board and delegates meetings, which sometimes get pretty hot. One of his unofficial duties is to be a peacemaker.
"It's very challenging because you are dealing with a large group of leaders whose locals have specific needs," said Rodriguez, who is also president of Clerical-Administrative Local 1549.
Rodriguez, whose responsibilities include appointing leaders of union committees, encourages thorough discussion. "As president, you do your best to help resolve things," he said. Once the smoke clears, he insists that people come together "as a family."
He said that while controversies sometimes arise, DC 37 activists must remain united as a group in their shared commitment to workers' rights and members' needs.
Rodriguez has dedicated virtually his entire adult life to public service and the union.
He began his civil service career at the age of 19 in 1972 as a Clerk and Eligibility Specialist in the Dept. of Social Services. In 1976, Rodriguez was elected as a shop steward at the Dyckman Center. He then served as chapter chair, delegate, sergeant-at-arms and 5th vice president before his election as president of Local 1549 in 2001. In November 2012, Rodriguez was unanimously reelected to his second term as president of DC 37.
As local president, his priorities have included increasing salaries and benefits, saving jobs, protecting members' rights, ensuring workplace safety, and promoting civilianization at uniformed agencies. In 2013, working with DC 37, he convinced the NYPD to agree to hire more 911 operators to address understaffing.
One of Rodriguez's priorities has also been to promote diversity at the union. A founder and co-chair of Local 1549's Latino Heritage Committee, he served as vice president of the AFL-CIO's Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
As an elected vice president on the Executive Board of DC 37's national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Rodriguez enjoys dealing with the challenges that face the country's labor movement, such as privatization, attacks on public employee unions and campaigns to cut government programs.
"As president, I enjoy playing an important role in building our council," Rodriguez said. "We can argue and we can disagree. But we must always come together to make sure our institution remains strong."
Gregory N. Heires
Public Employee Press
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Secretary, District Council 37
A recorder of union history
DC 37 Secretary Cliff Koppelman, re-elected in January 2013 to his fifth term, sees the minutes he takes at Executive Board, Delegates and other meetings as "an important responsibility that gives a complete and accurate official record of DC 37."
"The minutes tell our history," he said.
A court employee since 1969, Koppelman brings decades of experience in the labor movement to the DC 37 Executive Board. He served a two-year term as chair of the union's Ethical Practices Committee.
"Civil servants are the guardians for the public, who rely on us for services that improve their quality of life and allow them to be better citizens," he said.
From 1996-2014, Koppelman served as president of Court, County and Dept. of Probation Employees Local 1070, which represents Court Reporters, Interpreters, Secretaries to Judges, Law Librarians and Stenographers in state courthouses and New York City employees in the District Attorneys' offices, Public Administrators' offices and the Dept. of Probation in the five boroughs. He stepped down as local president in October 2014.
The local's Interpreters speak some 200 languages, helping New York's immigrants and residents navigate the daunting court system and city services.
After serving with the U.S. Air Force in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Germany, Koppelman returned to New York City, and eventually became a Court Reporter. He said military service prepared him for court reporting, which he found similar to listening to Morse code.
"I became a DC 37 member and was active in my local. After a year, I was elected chapter chair," he said. Koppelman credits former Local Presidents Mike Gentile and Paul Shelkin as "leaders and mentors who shared their knowledge with me and showed me the way." Koppelman is continuing this tradition by working with his successor, Local 1070 President Fausto Sabatino, to assure a smooth leadership transition.
"All over the country, politicians ignore union contracts and outsource work with little or no accountability as union workers are attacked and vilified," said Koppelman, who works every day to dispel the myth of the lazy civil servant. "When disaster strikes, public employees make sure people are safe and work on the front lines to restore normalcy and services. We make this a better city for all."
"We are fighting for opportunities, for dignity on the job, for the chance to earn a decent living and to protect our pensions and benefits. I'm glad to be part of the team that is moving DC 37 and its membership into the future," said Koppelman. He is an avid reader who loves history, studied judo, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife of over 49 years, Natalie.
Diane S. Williams
Public Employee Press
Maf Misbah Uddin
District Council 37
A supporter of fiscal transparency
DC 37 Treasurer Maf Misbah Uddin joined the municipal workforce in 1988 as an Actuary working for the New York City Office of the Actuary.
Actuaries make complex calculations for pensions and other related areas based on information such as life expectancies. Uddin has master's degrees in actuarial science, mathematics and demography.
Uddin immediately became active in Accountants, Actuaries and Statisticians Local 1407. Local members elected him president in 2000, and two years later he was elected to DC 37's Executive Board as the union's treasurer.
In his first term as treasurer, he initiated a budget process that has improved the transparency of union finances, and since then he has worked closely with DC 37 staff to analyze union expenditures and make long-term capital improvement plans.
In November 2012, Uddin was unanimously reelected to his fourth term as DC 37 treasurer. As treasurer he is responsible for the union's $49.3 million budget. "It's a responsibility that I take seriously, and that I am very proud of," he said.
An advocate for labor rights in his native Bangladesh as well, he is founder and president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor. Under his leadership, the alliance has increased the political involvement and strength of workers from South Asian countries and exposed the exploitative and hazardous working conditions that factory workers in Bangladesh have to endure to make a living. He also chairs the DC 37 Asian Heritage Committee and serves on the board of the AFL-CIO's Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. Uddin lives in Queens with his wife, Mazeda, and their five children.
Public Employee Press