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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

2021 #Laborstrong

Breaking Ground workers join the union.


More than 250 workers at Breaking Ground officially joined DC 37 on Oct. 26.

“Breaking Ground is setting the example for how it’s done. Workers got together, decided they wanted to organize, and management supported them. That’s how it should be,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “I want to thank Breaking Ground for their partnership in this effort and congratulate the workers on their success. We’re excited to have you join the family.”

Breaking Ground is New York’s largest non-profit developer and operator of supportive housing. They have more than 4,400 units of transitional and permanent housing under their management. The agency also runs street homeless outreach programs in Brooklyn, Queens, and Midtown Manhattan.

Last summer, Breaking Ground employees began their campaign to join DC 37 and filed for recognition on Aug. 27. In early October, management recognized the workers’ intention to unionize.

The deal with Breaking Ground is the first since the Labor Peace Agreement (Intro. 2252), was signed into law earlier this year.

The law requires city human services contractors to enter into labor peace agreements within 90 days of being awarded or renewing a City contract. This allows workers the power to organize without interference from their employers. This represents a sea change in how workers may organize and develop collective bargaining agreements with the private sector and non-profit organizations under contract with the City.

Garrido thanked Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and the City Council for passing the Labor Peace Agreement at the signing ceremony on Aug. 18.

“Labor peace is now the law of the land, and it’s been a long time coming,” Garrido said. “Workers in the non-profit social and human services sectors have been in crisis. They face dangerous working conditions, rising health care costs, low pay, and extremely high turnover. They have been asking for the ability to organize without fear, and it has finally been granted.”

Now that voluntary recognition was reached and union cards officially checked, the following Breaking Ground titles have joined the union: 311 Dispatchers, Case Managers, Engineers, Harm Reduction Specialists, Housekeepers, Housing Advocates, Housing Reporting Specialists, Housing Specialists, Maintenance Workers, Office Managers, Outreach Case Managers, Painters, Porters, Rent Administrators, and Residential Aides.

As members of the union, Breaking Ground employees may begin negotiating a contract agreement with their employer.

Judging by the ease at which Breaking Ground management recognized the workers’ right to join the union, hopes are high that a fair and equitable contract for the now-unionized workers will be reached in due time.

This sentiment was shared by Breaking Ground President and CEO Brenda Rosen.

“The success of our work is built with people – most especially our dedicated employees — and we value everyone as a part of the solution,” Rosen said. “That is why we chose to voluntarily recognize DC 37 and work together to further our shared mission and values. We will move forward in good faith to establish an equitable and sustainable contract.”

Currently, the union represents 18,000 non-profit human and social services workers in the union’s Non-Profit and Private Sector Division, which services five locals.