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Public Employee Press


A champion of women’s rights


Walthene Primus
DC 37 Secretary Walthene Primus, who is also president of New York City Housing Authority Clerical Local 957, retired on June 30, after 40 years on the frontline fighting for workers’ rights and women’s rights.

“I worked for pay equity, dignity and respect in the workplace-especially for women,” said Primus, a strong advocate for women, who make up almost 60 percent of New York City’s unionized workforce.

Primus started her civil service career in 1977 at NYCHA as a clerical worker in Local 957. “I saw dues deducted from my paycheck and was curious about what the union does with my money,” she said. “So I started attending general membership meetings and got answers.”

Primus became a shop steward and members elected her local secretary; then she became a grievance rep. In 1999, she was appointed president of Local 957 and was re-elected to serve four terms.

Under her leadership, Local 957 won 90 percent of its grievances and greater respect from NYCHA management.

Primus was elected as a DC 37 Executive Board vice president in 2002. She served as DC 37 secretary for four and a half years.

Primus chaired the union’s Women’s Committee and served on the Laws and Rules Committee, the Ethical Practices Committee, and the Screening Committee, as well as the Women’s Advisory Committee of DC 37’s national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Mayor Bill de Blasio chose Primus to be one of seven members of the Commission on Gender Equity, which advises him on how to reduce gender-based inequality and build a safer, more inclusive city with more opportunities for women and girls.

“I was most struck by the difference DC 37 makes by endorsing candidates who truly have our members’ backs and support working families,” Primus said. “I’ve seen the union remove obstacles to economic opportunities and barriers to advancement through contract negotiations and ballot box victories.”

“I came from a tiny town in South Carolina that has just two stop lights. I was part of that Great Migration from the South to New York City for better jobs and opportunities,” said Primus as she reflected her 52-year career.

“My job as union leader is to keep people working, to protect members’ jobs, wages, health care, pensions and more,” she said. “DC 37 makes a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of union families in New York City, and I will miss all the people I worked with over these many years.”