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Public Employee Press


Preserving our union history


We tell our story.

The working men and women who created DC 37 and our locals knew that the only way to protect workers’ rights and create a middle class with decent wages and benefits was to form a union.

These brilliant, creative, hard-working, people created, from scratch, an organization that now represents over 125,000 New York City drivers, court interpreters, health-care workers, parks workers, sewage treatment workers, architects, librarians, clerks, social workers, accountants, computer programmers and more.

This project gives us an opportunity to tell the true story of the city’s workforce and understand how we not only built and maintain our city, but preserve workers’ livelihoods.

As our leaders and veteran activists get older and move on to their new lives, their stories on how they built and maintained DC 37 and our locals will now be captured. DC 37’s Executive Board established the DC 37 Archives Committee to conduct an oral history project.

Archives Committee volunteers will interview our leaders and activists to capture, in their own words, how they created a union that stabilized New York City and ensured that millions of people have health care, a pension, housing, and a decent salary. These interviews will be deposited in the DC 37 Archives at NYU’s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives and be made available to researchers.

This ongoing project will give generations of researchers, union leaders, and activists insight into what, when, where, why, and how the men and women of the city’s labor movement:

  • created our welfare fund that provides an array of health and security benefits;
  • negotiated contracts that protect the rights of working men and women;
  • created a grievance and legal structure to enforce our contracts;
  • participated in civil rights for all people around the world;
  • struck for the right to bargain collectively and have a pension,
  • and saved our city so many times by helping address the 1970s financial crisis, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and spiraling healthcare costs.

These people’s stories are important, not only because they describe monumental contemporary labor events and benefits, but also because they give context to how New York City survives and maintains its vibrancy. Everywhere we go in this city, DC 37 members are there: the Museum of Natural History, a library branch in Staten Island, on the Grand Central Parkway, in the Bronx Zoo, Bellevue, and P.S. K130. The stories of New York City’s labor activists explain how our city and its workforce survives, thrives, and grows.

Our stories are rarely told. In the record of history, the stories that are saved are the ones that are perpetuated by the powerful and elite.

The story of working New Yorkers does not get told and if done, it is other people’s words, not ours. This project gives us an opportunity to tell the true story of the city’s workforce and understand how we not only built and maintain our city, but preserve workers’ livelihoods.

In recent years, we have experienced the loss of a number of union leaders and activists from those nascent days of DC 37 and our locals. With their passing, we lose our history. You can be a part of our story either by volunteering to be interviewed or suggesting someone we should talk with. Please contact the DC 37 Archives Committee at and let us know.

John Hyslop is the president of Queens Library Guild Local 1321 and the former archivist and digital assets manager at Queens Library.