A contract for DC 37’s newest members

Stephon Johnson | 2/20/2014, 1:30 p.m.

Grand Central Partnership business improvement district workers have scored a victory with assistance from the biggest public employee union in New York City.

The newest members of District Council 37 voted in significant numbers in December to approve their first contract, which provides employees with health coverage, retroactive payment and an hourly wage increase.

Led by negotiator Mark Heron and Lisa Riccio, assistant directors of the DC 37 Research and Negotiations Department, and Assistant General Counsel Meaghan Murphy, 60 more workers now have health coverage.

According to Heron, it was very necessary.

“They are primarily happy that they were able to sign up for health coverage and include their children on it,” Heron told the AmNews. “They’re happy that they no longer have to go leave an emergency room with a huge bill because they now have health insurance. With that peace of mind, they can just work.”

Included in the agreement for Grand Central Partnership workers is a $434.59 lump sum payment upon ratification. Probationary employees get the lump sum once they complete their probation. On top of health coverage and extra compensation, the workers now have representation that fights against favoritism, has introduced seniority rights, can potentially provide vacation days and sick days and improve overall working conditions.

The agreement runs from Nov. 1, 2013, to Oct. 31.

Heron told the AmNews that this is just the beginning. When workers organize, it usually takes a while to reach a new agreement with their employers once they find a union to call home. This deal provided the basics, which frees them and DC 37 up to focus on other issues.

“This was a good first step. This is not very easy,” said Heron. “So being able to lock in something is important.”

Back in January, more than 50 cleanup crew workers for the Grand Central Partnership voted to sign up for UnitedHealthcare Oxford. After quitting Local 713 of the International Brothers of Trade Unions (which many workers felt were a “no show” union), the group joined DC 37 after the health coverage ended. With their new representation, weekly employee contribution rates are $5.28 for a single worker, $9.24 for a parent and a child, $11.90 for an employee and a spouse and $16.11 for an employee and family.

For low-wage earners, workers make around $9 and $10 an hour; this marks a much-needed improvement.