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PEP Feb. 2007
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Our best days are ahead

  
 I am excited about the years ahead. The election was a sign that members are happy with the direction of the union.
 

By LILLIAN ROBERTS
Executive Director
District Council 37, AFSCME

I want to offer my thanks to the members of this great union for their faith in me, which was reflected in my re-election January 23rd to a third term as your Executive Director. And I want to thank the Delegates and Local Presidents who worked so hard to re-elect me and to give District Council 37 an Executive Board who will work closely with me to achieve greater solidarity and less dissension as we move the union forward. Now that the union is united, and we are leaving the divisiveness behind us, we can dream even bigger dreams.

I will, as I always have, continue fighting for every member of this union, because I believe that solidarity will make us a stronger union.

For me, the election provides an opportunity to look back on our accomplishments in recent years while reflecting upon our goals and hopes for the future.

We have come a long way since I was first elected as executive director five years ago.

  • Our latest economic agreement is the union’s best contract in more than two decades. Ratified by 97 percent of the membership, it provides for wage increases of over 10 percent while pumping more than $40 million into our Health and Security Plan to help protect our prescription drug benefit, as well as other benefits.
  • The union’s new affordable housing program has helped more than 1,100 members and their families achieve the dream of home ownership by providing them with loans worth more than $20 million.
  • Last year, DC 37 celebrated the opening of a 24-hour childcare center at Bellevue Hospital that we hope will be a model for the city. We will help needy DC 37 members save thousands of dollars by fighting to expand of childcare services citywide.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit Program helped members receive $1.4 million in tax refunds in its first year. We expanded the service into a free tax preparation program for all union members.
  • It is our mission to combat privatization and contracting out. Our White Paper project uncovered millions of dollars in waste and inefficiencies. Our recommendations helped the city save $165 million by eliminating contracts and replacing consultant positions with civil service titles.
  • We are also particularly proud of our successful fight for civilianization at the Police Department — where 460 new positions were created for union members — and the callback of more than 100 laid-off employees at the School Construction Authority.
  • In politics, our aggressive political action work has won the approval of several important laws, increased membership participation in lobby days, and restored millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts that would have led to layoffs and a decline in services.

Where do we go from here?
I am excited about the promise of the new Executive Board, which includes both experienced veteran leaders and a new, younger group of enthusiastic activists. They all share a genuine commitment to the rebuilding process we began five years ago after our national union ended the administratorship here.

We are going to build upon our initiatives in recent years, especially expanding child care, stopping privatization and promoting affordable housing.

We are demanding meaningful action from our elected officials on issues of importance to our members, such as residency. We are confident that we can convince the City Council to ease the residency requirement, a key achievement of our latest contract, which dovetails with our affordable housing program. Recently, Political Action Director Wanda Williams arranged for meetings with several City Council members so we could explain that it is only fair for our members to get the same opportunity to live outside the five boroughs as more highly paid teachers and police, fire, and sanitation workers.

We want to protect our health and pension benefits, and we will get an early jump on negotiations for a new contract — soon, before the current economic agreement expires next year.

I am eager to look at civil service reform. The union plans to push for changes that will improve our members’ opportunities for career advancement.

We hope to help members improve their education credentials by attending courses on the DC 37 campus of the College of New Rochelle and using the union’s education benefits to move up the career ladder.

I also pledge to you that the union will continue its policy of zero tolerance for corruption. We will continue to train our officers in union finances to ensure that local funds are managed efficiently and honestly.

I am excited about the years ahead. The election was a sign that our members are happy with the direction of the union, and it’s a signal to build upon our accomplishments to improve services and live up to DC 37’s historic reputation as one of the most dynamic unions in the country.

Let’s move forward together — everyone!
We have turned the corner. We have made great gains that we will build on going forward. Each one of you should be proud to be part of a great union that is striving in every way to protect your jobs, rights, and benefits and to offer services to our members that are second to none.

This union has been my life’s work. I called my slate “Members First” because that is what I have always truly believed a great union should be. DC 37 is a great union, and I ask all of you to join in solidarity with me in putting the Members First.

 

 

 
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