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 1 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.
We showed our strength in numbers, as hundreds of thousands of us went to the polls to steer this city in a new and better direction. With Bill de Blasio’s victory in the Democratic primary, it is now time for all of us to come together and get behind a single progressive candidate for our common welfare. Once de Blasio is securely in the mayor’s office, we will need to set our sights on fixing the problems this city has turned its back on during the previous administration.
Fair wages for public employees and all working men and women in the city is our first goal. On day one, we will work with the next administration to help all New Yorkers not just survive but thrive in this city. We all deserve to be secure in our jobs, have a gratifying quality of life and the ability to retire with dignity. As labor advocates, we must promote these values and fight to retain them.
Currently, no city union has an active contract. That is unbelievable and unacceptable. We have gone too long without fair raises while the city built up its rainy-day fund. Now that the city is in better financial health, it’s time to compensate public employees for their sacrifice. The doomsday scenarios have not come to pass. In fact, our pensions are thriving, and tax revenue is rising again.
That is why we will pursue new contracts that offer retroactive pay for city workers who went without raises while the city regained its financial footing. The cost of living did not wait for us during our sacrifice, but continued to climb. We are not asking for anything more than what we rightly deserve, which is a wage that keeps up with the cost of living in New York.
While our paychecks remained stagnant, our rents continued to rise. In addition, it was impossible to move to a cheaper place because between 2002 and 2008, the city lost nearly 200,000 affordable rental housing units, according to the city’s public advocate’s office.
As president of Local 237, I represent more than 8,000 New York City Housing Authority workers. I’m committed to securing a safer and more rewarding workplace for members and better living conditions for NYCHA residents. I look forward to working with the next administration to upgrade public housing by giving it the attention it deserves.
Unions are at the heart of the city’s working and middle class, and we must build a relationship with City Hall in order to advance. As the next administration steps up to the plate, it will be important to bring labor in as a team player to discuss how to best run this complex and spectacular city.
There is no question we face a lot of challenges in the upcoming year and will have to make some tough choices. With de Blasio as our new mayor, willing to start a new dialogue and generate trust, I am confident New York will get back on track for public employees and all New Yorkers.