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Public Employee Press

2016: Building a dynamic union

Local 372 School Crossing Guard Maria DeLaura speaks at a news conference at union headquarters on Jan. 6. At the conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s $15 an hour minimum wage plan. DeLaura is flanked by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and de Blasio (left) and DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido (right).

In 2016, DC 37 advanced its mission to become a more dynamic and grassroots-oriented union. Despite the anti-union era in the country, DC 37 made significant strides by recruiting new activists while strengthening its workplace presence, deepening ties to the community and developing more political clout.

“The transformation of our union will take a long time,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said. “But so far, we have made a lot of progress, and next year we will continue down this path. We are talking about a change in culture at DC 37.”

Union activists and elected leaders had a busy year in 2016.

Workers at the City University of New York participated in fight-back campaign to win a new contract.

Members helped block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to cut $300 million in state support for the city’s public health-care system and nearly $500 million from CUNY’s budget.

Hopeful applicants attend the union’s first ever hiring hall for School Crossing Guards on July 25 that was organized by DC 37 and the New York Police Dept. The event took place at union headquarters.
And the union fought for low-wage DC 37 workers to be covered by a $15 minimum wage.

Activists can expect an even busier year in 2017 as Mayor Bill de Blasio runs for reelection, the Republican Congress takes steps to eviscerate worker protections and roll back reforms dating from the New Deal, the nationwide assault on unions intensifies, all while the union defends members facing injustices in the workplace, continues to recruit new activists and build up the membership.

The achievements reflect the goals of a strategic plan called “Leading the Way, Restructuring DC 37 to Address the Challenges of the Union,” which Garrido presented to the elected leadership and delegates in October.

The plan provides a road map for how the union will deal with its $2.5 million deficit and carry out institutional reforms to deliver services more efficiently. More importantly, the report outlines the union’s long-term plan to represent 10,000 more members by 2020, adopt an organizing culture, and continue the DC 37/AFSCME Strong campaign to recruit worksite activists.

“Founded in 1944, DC 37 is very important to of the fabric of New York City,” Garrido said. “We have one of the most expansive governments in the country and play a key role in ensuring that the city remains the financial capital of the world. We hope to continue our work for another 70 years.”

Local 1559 President Peter Vreeland, center, and Vice President Erik O’Brien (at Vreeland’s right) meet with members about the local’s petition drive to protect their pension. More than 1,200 DC 37 members are in the Cultural Institutions Retirement System.
Members of Local 1320 Sewage Treatment Workers are pleased that the union helped block the Dept. of Environmental Protection’s contract with Veolia, a multinational water management company.
Hundreds demand better funding and new employee contracts at CUNY during a March 12 demonstration.