City workers hold Fair Pay Forum

Stephon Johnson | 3/13/2014, 12:07 p.m.
While education is getting all of the coverage, the unions and the new city budget look to be the central ...
Mayor Bill de Blasio Photo by Bill Moore

While education is getting all of the coverage, the unions and the new city budget look to be the central story of not only this year, but the current administration’s legacy.

Last Thursday, just over 75 rank-and-file union members met to mobilize against efforts to “divide and conquer” the working class via pitting unions against each other for fair contracts. Having already gathered over 1,000 signatures on a letter demanding that union leaders prioritize retroactive pay, they also urged New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stay true to his promise of ending the oft-repeated “Tale of Two Cities” and using the bargaining table to end income inequality.

“The fact is that we’ve given up our free time. We’ve come in during snowstorms, we’ve stayed overnight in hospitals, and we’ve worked overtime to clean up the city after Superstorm Sandy,” said Sean Petty, a nurse at New York City Health and Hospitals Corporations, in a statement. “That is being repaid with a new mayor who is saying there is not enough money for the raises we deserve.

“What tonight showed,” he continued, “is that there is a growing unrest among city workers, and that we are not going to accept the status quo excuses from the administration.”

The Fair Pay Forum was organized by organizations like Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the ACS Coalition of Union Members, New York State Nurses Association, District Council 37 and the Professional Staff Congress. Also represented at the forum were members of TWU Local 100, Organization of Staff Analysts, Teamsters Local 237, 1199 SIEU and other city unions.

“De Blasio campaigned on a ‘Tale of Two Cities.’ Well, here’s the other city coming forward,” said Lucy Herschel, a member of 1199 SEIU and a participant in the forum, in a statement. “I don’t think I’ve ever been at a meeting of this many rank-and-file union members from different unions before.”

“While strong economic growth has boosted city revenues, Mayor de Blasio continues to grapple with ongoing structural deficits and labor contracts that have remained unsettled for far too long,” said DiNapoli in a released statement. “The final cost and structure of these agreements may not be known for some time. This plan is a strong starting point for the mayor, and I urge him to remain cautious and look at the long-term picture.”

However, union members believe that maintaining the city budget and receiving retroactive pay aren’t mutually exclusive. Anthony Lackham, a member of Local 1549 DC37, said that municipal unions will continue to push for what they feel they deserve.

“Tonight, I learned that there are a lot more of us willing to fight for what we’ve earned,” said Lackham in a statement. “I’m excited that I’m not alone and reinvigorated to find brothers and sisters of like mind.”