A LONG WAY IN 18 MONTHS: In November 2019, City Council staffers angered by the Council's failure to expel rogue Councilman Andy King after charges were substantiated against him for the second time of being abusive to workers took to the steps of City Hall to press their case against harassment while moving to form a union. Mr. King was finally booted last October after further transgressions, and the Council recently voted overwhelmingly to recognize the Association of Legislative Employees as the union for the staffers.  

By a 47-2 vote, City Council Members have recognized the Association of Legislative Employees (ALE) as the union which will represent close to 400 Council Member Aides.

The Aides serve the Council Members in a variety of roles, handling scheduling, constituent services, communications, budget, legislation, and policy development. The ALE's organizing drive began in the fall of 2019.

Will Offer Protection

"This is a historic milestone that involved many Council staffers in nearly two years of organizing to bring us to a point of unionization," wrote Council Member Aide Maria Henderson, a member of the ALE Core Organizing Committee.

The Aides lack civil-service protections, and they are "at-will" employees. Their concerns about pay disparities and issues like workplace harassment simmered for several years, and came to a boil in October 2019 fall after the Council substantiated charges against then-Councilman Andy King but declined to expel him for mistreating his staff, even though he had been sanctioned two years earlier by the Council in 2017 for sexually harassing a a female aide.

Mr. King was finally removed from office last October by his colleagues.

The union's organizing-committee members say they expect to clear the remaining procedural hurdles "in a matter of months." Once fully recognized, ALE, opted not to affiliate with a bigger labor group, will be the nation's largest legislative staff union.

Two GOPers Voted No

Minority Leader Steven Matteo and fellow Republican Council Member Joe Borelli voted against recognizing the union, while the third GOP member, Eric Ulrich, voted yes.

In January, by a similar vote, the Council endorsed the ALE's representation of 100 employees within the Council's  Finance Division.

Senior Financial Analyst Daniel Kroop, a member of the ALE organizing committee, said during an April 22 phone interview that the latest vote authorized Council Speaker Corey Johnson to file a certification with the Office of Collective Bargaining, which once published in the City Record will be subject to public review and possible objections.

"It's just a matter of months at this point," Mr. Kroop said. "We are really grateful to Speaker Johnson and the City Council for their support. With the developments on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol and the pandemic, we see just how important it is for legislative employees to have representation like ALE to ensure their workplace safety."

Members Set Pay

Most of the several hundred Council employees work directly for Council Members in their district offices, with salaries set by their bosses and ranging widely, from $25,000 to over $100,000.

"Once this is all finalized, we will have a shop steward in every Council Member's office so members will have someone with whom they can raise issues related to salary disparities, job responsibilities, travel-expense reimbursement or potential bullying," said Council Member Aide Sarah Crean.

"We can now turn our attention towards bargaining and implementing better workplace standards for the new wave of Council Members and staff who will enter in 2022," texted Council Member Aide M. Ndigo Washington, an ALE Core Committee member. "We've paved the way for other staff of legislative bodies to form a union, and hopefully they can learn from our efforts and join the ranks of organized labor."

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