Toni Morrison, the renowned writer and recipient of the1993 Noble Prize in Literature, once wrote: “When spring comes to the City people notice one another in the road; notice the strangers with whom they share aisles and tables and the space…. It’s the time of year when the City urges contradiction most, encouraging you to buy street food when you have no appetite at all; giving you a taste for a single room occupied by you alone as well as a craving to share it with someone you passed in the street. Really there is no contradiction — rather it’s a condition.”
February is Black History Month. It is a time to celebrate the accomplishments and heritage of black people in our nation. Its founder, historian Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, along with his associate, Jesse E. Moorland, created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or ASALH) in 1915 to promote black history and recognize achievements of African Americans.
After 12 consecutive presidents from somewhere other than New York, this time, no matter who won the election, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the president would be a New Yorker. Political pundits will be writing about this election for years to come, including questioning how the outcome was miscalculated by almost all of the experts and pollsters who predicted that things were supposed to be different.
Isn’t it ironic that the United States can be both admired and despised by people of other countries for precisely the same thing: Our democratic values.
Those values have been hard fought; they have cost many lives; they have been challenged throughout the ages and continue to be challenged today. Whether we’re talking about the values represented by the Civil Rights Movement or the Labor Movement — both of which are intertwined — voting for a democratic, representative government is the mechanism by which those values come to fruition.
Last year, when Mayor de Blasio issued his proposal for the City’s budget, he expressed concern about a growing deficit that would adversely impact millions of New Yorkers and the City’s ability to provide essential services. In his budget presentation, he cited his greatest concerns. Public housing, home for nearly 600,000 residents, was listed among the top problems the City faced.
Iattended Governor Cuomo’s press conference, at which he was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, where he announced his proposal for a 12- week paid family leave to allow an employee to take off from work to care for a sick relative or a newborn child.
More than 8,000 members of Local 237 work at NYCHA buildings, which means that our union represents the largest number of workers at NYCHA. Approximately one third of them also live in NYCHA housing.
In 1992, two teenagers were shot to death in the hallway of a Brooklyn high school a little over an hour before Mayor David N. Dinkins was to visit the school to give an inspirational speech. The shooting happened just 15 feet away from two police officers who were part of the school’s normal security team. There were no metal detectors in use.
Fortunately, some candidates understand the importance of protecting the American worker. Although I do not agree with all of his positions, Donald Trump is right about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will govern 40 percent of U.S. trade. He called it “a bad, bad deal for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers,” and “a huge set of hand-outs for a few insiders that don’t even care about our great, great America.”
Fortunately, some candidates understand the importance of protecting the American worker. Although I do not agree with all of his positions, Donald Trump is right about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP), which will govern 40 percent of U.S. trade. He called it “a bad, bad deal for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers” and “a huge set of hand-outs for a few insiders that don’t even care about our great, great America.”
Joining the middle class is at the heart of the American Dream. Immigrants and low income Americans struggle tirelessly in hopes of obtaining stable jobs with fair pay. Unfortunately, these jobs, and the American Dream with them, are dying. Unions are the nation’s best chance at preserving and growing middle-class jobs.
One in three New Yorkers worry that they could become homeless. Thus far, the state has given them good reason for concern.
More than 230,000 rent-regulated units have been lost in the last thirty years, often due to landlords forcing tenants out with higher rents. At press time, with rent regulations having expired, all one million remaining units are in jeopardy.
The impact of Hurricane Sandy on residents of New York City Housing Authority, who were evacuated to safety or remained without heat or hot water in the fall of 2012, continues to demand attention. Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced the largest Federal Emergency Management Agency Grant in history, $3 billion, to restore livable housing for thousands of families and fortify NYCHA against future disasters.
New York City affordable housing crisis is likely worse now than ever before in our history. According to a recent Bloomberg report, the average monthly rent in February 2015 for a Manhattan studio apartment is $2,351, and Brooklyn is officially the least affordable housing market in America.
New York City’s attempts to sell New York City Housing Authority properties to private developers should be a concern to all New Yorker’s. On Tuesday, February 10th, I testified before the New York City Council Committee on Public Housing regarding a deal NYCHA made with the City of New York to sell fifty percent stakes in six housing projects to private developers L+M Development Partners and BFC Partners.
Shortly after the execution-style murder of two New York Police Department officers while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn in December, two more NYPD officers were shot and wounded in the Bronx while investigating a robbery. Such incidents are not unique to New York, but are occurring in cities and towns across the United States.
With 8,000 New York City Housing Authority workers in our ranks – a third of whom are also NYCHA residents – we at Local 237 take the safety of this city’s public housing developments very seriously. Last month an incident occurred in the Pink Houses of East New York, ending another young life, and bringing into question again the safety of our public housing developments.
Just hours after the midterm elections on November 4, talk of impeachment was already on the lips of pundits, and polarization inWashington was at a high point. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, this means the prospect of addressing income inequality grows slimmer, even as the problem reaches epic proportions in our city and across the nation.
It’s a new day for New York City’s 5,000 school safety agents. They will finally be receiving the wages we have fought for over the years and which they so deserve. New York City offered school safety agents a two-part proposal, including a new contract that was overwhelmingly ratified by voting members, and a proposed settlement of the equal-pay lawsuit.
For too long, the New York City Housing Authority was treated like the neglected child of New York City. It was almost as though 400,000 residents and 10,000 workers were invisible.
The issue of unequal pay for men and women has reached critical mass in the United States as socioeconomic forces have propelled women into the workplace in unprecedented numbers. On Equal Pay Day on April 8th, I led a rally at City Hall to focus on the issue as it affects a group of New York City public employees who are predominantly women. Also on that day, President Obama issued an executive order to address the issue among federal contractors, noting that “When women succeed, America succeeds.”
Hand-in-hand with the war on workers, affordable housing is under attack. When the Furman Center reported recently that 31 percent of New Yorkers pay 50 percent or more of their income in rent and utilities, it wasn't shocking. This confirmed a routine budgeting nightmare for many of us.
Not everyone loves the government. Some people argue that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Others even believe the government can hurt us or make our lives more difficult.
But that’s not how I see government. Government at all levels can be a powerful tool to uplift people and make our communities better.
As Mayor Bill de Blasio assumes leadership of New York City, we rejoice in the hopes that the new and improved New York – the one we voted for – will soon be all that it can be for all its denizens. It’s an exciting and meaningful time, especially for public employees, as we welcome the first Democratic Mayor to this great city in 24 years.
We learned a lot from the Democratic Primary Election. Most importantly that the democratic process is still alive and well in New York – a city that often felt like it catered to the one percent more than the rest of us. Even though many unions did not stand together behind a single mayoral candidate, the labor movement came out in force and made a real difference in how New York will move forward.
Nearly 9,000 Local 237 members work in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. Their work ranges from apartment repairs, to grounds caretakers, boiler and elevator services, to rent collections. About one-third of these workers also live in NYCHA apartments.
While our rents continue to rise, chronic underfunding and mismanagement threaten the very future of New York’s public housing. Between 2002 and 2008, the city lost nearly 200,000 affordable rental housing units, according to the public advocate’s office, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that 60 percent of all renters in the city cannot afford the market rate for a typical twobedroom apartment, which is about $1,474, according to New York, NY HUD.
A contract is more than a financial agreement between two people or parties. It’s a sign of trust and a commitment. When negotiating an agreement, you are not just setting financial terms but also establishing a bond that will serve as the foundation for the relationship moving forward.
Unions fight for better pay, wages and pensions that guarantee workers dignity in retirement. We do this because the Labor Movement, at its heart, is about fairness.
Fairness and equality go hand in hand. That’s why we are fighting so hard for our school safety agents to be paid the same wage as other certified peace officers who do similar work.
In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Bloomberg used the opportunity to take a final victory lap and congratulate himself for the changes he brought about during his 11 years in office. As Bloomberg’s final term comes to an end, it is disheartening to hear him increasingly blame organized labor for the problems that his administration failed to solve.
We are a nation founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.” When the founders wrote those words, they had a very a different idea about equality.
Nevertheless, that fundamental principle has endured, and the list of people who are “created equal” has expanded over the years, to include women, people of different races and religions, and all people regardless of sexual orientation.
We are a nation founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.” When the founders wrote those words, they had a very a different idea about equality.
Nevertheless, that fundamental principle has endured and the list of people who are “created equal” has expanded over the years, to include women, people of different races and religions, and all people regardless of sexual orientation.
As we gather with loved ones to celebrate the holidays, there is a somberness not usually associated with this joyous season. The weight of two recent tragedies – the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy and the senseless slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut – have caused us to all feel some degree of sadness, unease and anxiety. But these horrific events have also called attention to the essential role of public workers in our society.
The race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was more than a choice between two very different men. It was also a contest between two visions for this country and the role of government in our lives. In one version, the government would step back and allow businesses and the wealthy to run the country. In the other, the government would continue to function fully as a Democracy to protect and advance all Americans.
It seems like before every presidential election, we call it the most important one of our time. In truth, every presidential election is incredibly important. It decides who will be the leader of the free world and the commander in chief of the most powerful military on earth. Even more than that, it shows the national mood and says something about our values at the time.
For many Americans, government is just an abstract idea. It’s something confusing they hear about on TV. It’s a faceless thing they send their taxes to every April 15. These people don’t have to think about government very much. They just go about their lives, complain about it sometimes and just hope that it works.
Unions have been under attack since they were first formed to protect the rights of workers. For 60 years, Local 237 has been on the front lines of the fight to earn better wages and benefits for members — building a middle class along the way.
Over the past several years, the focus of the national debate, water-cooler conversations and household discussions has been about the troubled economy. Our well-being as a country and a community is strongly tied to our economic health. That dialogue continues to dominate the political agenda today.
Many union leaders and politicians often talk like they are at war. We “fight” for our rights. We “battle” against big business or management. It sounds inspiring, but is it a fair comparison? After all, we are not really charging into combat like our brave men and women overseas.
These days, public pensions seem more like public enemy number one. Both at the city and the state level, some politicians make it sound like pensions are a black hole where money simply disappears into nowhere.
As we enter 2012, it’s hard to believe it’s time for another presidential election. It seems like only yesterday that President Obama gave his victory speech in Chicago, bringing tears of joy to millions of people around the United States and the world.
Working people have had a long, tough road in this country. This is especially true for women, people of color and people belonging to religious minorities. We have come far, but we have farther to go, and it is important to remember how we got here.
As public sector workers, our pensions are our most important asset. They are more than just money and investments. They’re our shared life savings. They are not generous gifts from our employers, but deferred compensation that we have bargained for over decades. They signify dignity and freedom in retirement.
For months, many labor leaders, including myself, have supported workers’ actions in Wisconsin and Ohio, and, more recently, the CWA strike here in New York. We contemplated what the future may hold for America’s workers. As last week’s walkout by Longshoremen in Washington demonstrates, worker dissatisfaction — both here and abroad — is reaching a crisis.
Hopes for a robust economic recovery were set back with a rise in the jobless rate last month, a plunging stock market, and continued debate in Congress over deficit reduction versus job creation as the nation’s number one priority.
In politics, simultaneous with the war on public workers, there is a war of words being waged around the country and here at home. Like many battles, both sides profess to be on the right side, which in this case is about protecting America’s future. In such a war, it is important to understand what to believe and what to doubt.
Madison, Wisconsin. Columbus, Ohio. Indianapolis, Indiana. These cities are the front lines of the current assault against the rights of working people and the middle class. With state and local government deficits ballooning around the country, however, the fight is expanding every day.
Make no mistake. This push against unions is not simply about getting fair wage and benefit concessions during tough economic times. It is about the rich and powerful breaking the backs of labor — especially public sector unions — once and for all.
But can it happen in New York City?
There’s a reason why they call us public service employees. We work hard to serve the public. It sounds simple, but today it seems that people forget what we really do. Our towns, cities and states simply would not work if the roads were not cleaned and the streets were not policed.
Many public service jobs are not glamorous. No one takes them to get filthy rich. People do them because they want to do honest work, make a decent living, contribute to society and have some financial security in retirement.
The labor movement is no stranger to conflict. By definition, it involves organizing workers to fight aggressively against a larger, more powerful foe. Periods of conflict have ebbed and flowed over the course of labor's history, some moments uneventful, others full of marches, speeches and strikes. The last decade has certainly had its share of confrontations. Unions have always had to fight for just treatment and fair wages. Constant vigilance keeps our organizations strong and unified.
We can be proud of another year well spent! I am always amazed, excited and a little relieved when December arrives. It’s a time to look back on all that we have accomplished and look forward to new opportunities and alliances in the face of future challenges. The Holidays are also a time for celebration and coming together with friends and family, as well as a time of change and rebirth.
Call it a tidal wave, call it a revolution, but there's no doubt the Republicans stormed back into power in Congress and the national stage on Nov. 2. U.S. Voters, upset about the economy and the bickering in Washington, took their anxiety and frustration out on incumbents by handing the House to Republicans, as well as several seats in the Senate.
Anger is everywhere. So many people are angry about so many things that you can almost smell it in the air. New Yorkers and Americans across the country have been angry for a long time, and it is coming to a head. Public anger can cause great change, but it can also do tremendous damage. Lately, too much anger has undeservedly fallen upon the labor movement, and we need to fight back hard.
It seems today you cannot turn on the news without hearing a politician talking about “reform,” or “change.” Most of their ideas are welcome. Albany is certainly in need of serious reform. Barack Obama famously cam- paigned on the slogan of change, which he has brought about in a more positive way than critics give him credit for.
Diversity is a word used a lot these days, usually in reference to racial or religious diversity, but it can mean so much more. Teamsters Local 237 is truly diverse in a number of ways. Not only do our members come from every possible background, but they also perform many different and valuable services all over New York City and Long Island. Each of our titles brings a special and valuable point of view that makes our union strong.
These are tough times for unions. Critics have taken the recent problems in New York as an opportunity to attack and insult the labor movement. They say we prospered too much during the good years. They say we are not helping enough with the financial collapse of our government. They say many things, but they forget the role that makes unions not only important, but necessary.
Like many of you, I feel very frustrated these days. Wall Street is back earning record profits, and yet millions of Americans struggle to find work. Young and old alike cannot afford health insurance, and yet the health-care reform bill is at a standstill in Washington. New York is burdened with increasing debt, and Albany has been generating more scandal and confusion than leadership.
It was a year ago that we celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I am honored to be sworn in as president of Local 237 so near that historic date. I want to thank all those who helped me reach this point, and I want to welcome our new trustee, Curtis Scott, and new business agents Charlie Cotto and Carol Harry. Though my inauguration is not as momentous an occasion, I wish it to inspire a similar sense of hopefulness about the future among our members.
Holidays are about giving thanks with your family. I consider all the members of Local 237 to be a family, and I hope you do too. We understand each other. We fight for each other. When push comes to shove, we are there for each other. As a family, we have much to be thankful for this holiday season. Although it was a difficult year for much of the nation, Local 237 managed to prosper in these difficult times.
On behalf of the entire Local 237 Executive Board, thank you for the honor of representing you. We are humbled that our members have given us the opportunity to lead this great union into the future.
Often I write to you about how Local 237 fights for every one of our members. This month I can tell you that, thanks to your support, our union has scored a big victory.
After months of standing firm, we have reached a contract agreement with the city for our 9,000 NYCHA employees. I’m proud that we held our ground and received a fair deal, 8.16 percent over two years. We refused to take less than we deserve. We refused to settle for less than other unions. We refused to buckle under to pressure to place the financial burden of the city on the backs of our members.
As budgets continue to shrink and the state emerges from chaos, we need a strong and cohesive union to stand together and to fight for working men and women.
Leadership works like a compass in the woods. During good weather, most people glance at it occasionally as they wander among the trees. But in a storm, it becomes very important, the only thing that can get you out safely as the wind and rain pound down and hide the path.
After a difficult winter, in which the country faced blizzards of both snow and bad economic news, the seasons are beginning to change. As the weather warms and the leaves return to the trees, we are also seeing signs that our harsh economic conditions may be starting to thaw: the nation’s financial institutions are again reporting profits and home sales are rising. For the first time in months, there is reason to be hopeful.
We are beginning the great budget battle of 2009. Every year, it is a struggle to ensure that the city and state treat working people with fairness and respect. But this year, resources are thinner than they have been in decades, and every dollar will be hard won.
There has been plenty of bad news lately. Newspapers read like lists of
layoffs from private companies and municipal agencies. Fear and
apprehension have gripped the nation’s work force, both white collar
and blue collar. No one knows when things will get better, or how much
worse they will become.
As Americans try to keep their New Year’s resolutions, the country is united in a resolve to make a bold change. At press time, millions of us were gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. I felt unprecedented enthusiasm as I walked across the doorstep of my home to start that trip, knowing that at the same time I have crossed a threshold to a new, hope-filled era of American and world history.
Facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, many of you might find it difficult to get into the holiday spirit this year. However, Local 237 Teamsters has continued to strengthen its efforts to protect the quality of life for all of its members, redoubling our commitment to meeting your needs during these tough financial times.
able! Just over one month ago a five-year
-old child fell to his death at the New York City Housing Authority’s Taylor Wythe apartment complex in Brooklyn.
As the summer draws to a close, I hope you enjoyed the warm days in the company of friends and loved ones. In the previous edition of Newsline, I discussed new ideas Local 237 was developing to improve the quality of life for our members. I would like to update you on our success and our plans for the coming months.
While many things around the city slow down in the summer, Teamsters Local 237 is just beginning to heat up with new ideas and services to improve the quality of life for our union brothers and sisters.