Public Advocate office members unionize

Stephon Johnson | 10/22/2020, midnight
Unions have endorsed New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams during election campaigns.
Jumaane Williams Bill Moore photo

Unions have endorsed New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams during election campaigns. Now, Williams’ own office members want to join the organized labor force.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ staff members have formed a union with the Campaign Workers Guild, which would cover all non-managerial staff.

Two-thirds of all eligible staff members signed on to join CWG.

Ivie Bien-Aime, community organizer, Office of the NYC Public Advocate said that it was time for workers to get together and join their union brethren in organizing.

“All workers deserve decency, dignity, and justice in the workplace and protections from all forms of abuse,” stated Bien-Aime. “Public Advocate Williams has an opportunity to show his commitment to these principles and set an example for all New York employers by promptly recognizing our union.”

When asked for comment, Williams’ spokespeople directed the AmNews to a statement he made on Twitter approving of his workers’ efforts to unionize.

“As our city faces both a public health and a budget crisis, it’s more important than ever to ensure that city employees have a strong autonomous voice,” read the statement. “Both grassroots organizing and commitments from leadership are critical in advancing that goal. Unions have always played a key role in advocacy, and the Public Advocate is proud to support the process of unionization of staff within our office.

“He looks forward to continuing the office’s work to be a model for the city of employee engagement and advancement,” the statement concluded.

Local labor unions have empowered Williams through several campaigns whether it’s his current Public Advocate job or as a New York City council member. When campaigning for his current position, Williams received endorsements from the likes of 100 Black Construction Workers, Professional Staff Congress CUNY, Teamsters Local 814 and New York City District Council of Carpenters.

The recent news comes several months after another locally-elected official’s staff voted to unionize. In July, members of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s re-election campaign reached a collective bargaining agreement with CWG, which includes all-non managerial staff, part-time, hourly and full-time employees. Like Williams, Ocasio-Cortez said at the time that she wanted to practice what she preached.

“Workers’ rights are the cornerstone of an economy that puts humanity first,” said Ocasio-Cortez in July. “I’ve lived without health insurance or dignity in the workplace, and I applaud the work our team has done to raise the bar for all workers.”

Workers have formally submitted a demand for voluntary recognition from the Public Advocate. Campaign Workers Guild President Meg Reilly said that it’s now full speed ahead with collective bargaining.

“Demanding a seat at the bargaining table is one of the highest forms of democracy,” stated Reilly. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, an overdue reckoning on racial justice and a targeted attack on non-unionized municipal employees in New York City, staffers at the Public Advocate’s Office deserve the ability to bargain over their wages, hours, and working conditions.

“We look forward to Public Advocate Jumaane Williams demonstrating his respect for his workers by promptly recognizing the staff union,” Reilly concluded.