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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Organizing victory at Wildlife Conservation Society

Veterinary Techs join Local 1501

Local 1501 members celebrate their union recognition.

In September, the National Labor Relations Board recognized a new collective bargaining unit comprised of 21 full-time and regular, part-time veterinary technicians employed at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“We are seeing a welcome change in the labor movement,” said Local 1501 President Raul Domenech. “Like workers at Amazon and Starbucks, these public employees organized themselves as union members to have rights and protections on the job and a seat at the bargaining table.”

DC 37 lawyer Amos Laor, Esq. represented the union in petitioning to represent the group as part of DC 37 Wildlife Conservation Society Local 1501. The unit represents the titles of Senior Veterinary Technicians, Clinical Supervising Veterinary Technicians, Hospital Assistants, Water Quality Lab Technicians, Pathology Technicians, Pathology Lab Technicians, Laboratory Supervising Veterinary Technicians, Histotechnicians, Medical Records Specialists, and Veterinary Technician Assistants.

Veterinary Tech Victoria Jemec joined the organizing effort to have a voice in the workplace. “Dalia and I started the ball rolling about five years ago because we wanted to bring about change for ourselves and our coworkers. I love my work and I believe belonging to a union makes my job better,” she said.

Local 1501 Vet Techs care for mammals, reptiles, fish, and wildlife at the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium.

“I have been working for a long time, since I was 13 years old,” Veterinary Tech Dalia Ferguson said. “One thing I have come to appreciate and that I realize is vital to the growth and success of every employee is advocacy. Having a voice, advocating for ourselves directly affects our work environment and is invaluable to maintaining a healthy work-life balance with opportunities for career advancement.

“By joining DC 37, I hope to ensure that I, and all other LVTs at WCS, have the opportunity to speak and be heard. Now we are part of a team that will advocate and negotiate for us when decisions that directly affect us are being made,” she said.

Veterinary Tech Dalia Ferguson helps care for a leopard at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
DC 37 Organizer Anthony Graves said it took about two years for the Veterinary Technicians to finally win recognition.

“The members in this group are fearless. Throughout the struggle, they were determined and remained focused. They have finally achieved one of their goals. These workers are invested and they see the value of belonging to a union. Their pro-union attitude made my job easier,” Graves said.

Additional reporting and photos by A. Graves