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Union, city start up contract talks

District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido addresses Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn at the opening bargaining session on Nov. 14.

DC 37 started bargaining talks with the city for a new economic agreement on Nov. 14 with both sides expressing hope to wrap up negotiations quickly.

“I can’t overemphasize that we need a contract now,” DC 37 Executive Henry Garrido told Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn at the opening bargaining session. “Our members deserve a raise as soon as possible.”

Union wants a three-year contract

The union’s 13 demands include a three-year agreement with a fair wage increase.

“We are looking to improve our standard of living,” David Paskin, DC 37’s director of research and negotiations said, commenting on the union’s overarching concern in these negotiations.

Paskin noted that members feel under a lot of financial pressure because of high rents, rising food and transportation expenses, and skyrocketing drug prices. Members are also anxious about their future because of the nationwide attack on public employee pensions and benefits, Paskin said.

The negotiations committee members met in caucus before the session to discuss the demands and the union’s bargaining strategy. They caucused again after they met with city negotiators to review Linn’s responses and to continue to evaluate the bargaining context.

Linn said he would respond formally to the demands at the next bargaining session. But he did share his initial take on the demands with the union’s negotiating team, which includes the council’s executive officers and local union presidents.

Health care will be a major topic of discussion as the union aims to protect the benefit while the city seeks a three-year agreement with municipal unions to find $2.4 billion in health-care savings. City unions agreed to a $3.4 billion saving plan linked to the last round of bargaining, which helped fund DC 37’s 2010-17 contract.

Garrido is urging the Municipal Labor Committee — which bargains on health care on behalf of city unions — to hammer out a savings plan with the city. Without an agreement on health care, negotiations will likely be more complicated because the city would not have a clear picture of its future financial commitments.

Linn expressed concern about the city’s $88 billion obligation for retiree benefits. In response, Garrido said, “Don’t mess with our retirees. They have paid their dues.”

The union’s demands include getting rid of the reduced hiring rate.

Other demands are paid family leave; an annuity plan into which the city would contribute $5 a day; funding to reduce pay inequities; a floating holiday; an increase of meal and mileage allowances, and an additional increase in the city’s welfare fund contribution for each member and retiree. Raising the contribution would help the DC 37 Health & Security Plan address the rising cost of prescription drugs.

Another demand deals with the anti-union Janus v. AFSCME case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

If this ruling goes against AFSCME, it will cripple public employee unions across the country by allowing non-members to receive legally mandated union representation without paying their fair share of dues.

DC 37 wants to have access to newly hired workers and to start receiving the initial dues payment of new members and agency fee payments of non-members within 45 days. The union and the city may work outside of the negotiating process to address this issue.