“We’re building a bolder union,” District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido announced regarding the decision to bring District Council 1707 under its banner.
DC 37, which represents 125,000 city employees, began talks a few months ago with the union that represents 20,000 non-profit workers in the early-childhood education and home health-care industries. The idea was sparked by both unions’ national affiliate, the American Federation of State and County and Municipal Employees. Mr. Garrido said that there was a growing trend across the country of unions consolidating power.
‘Grow With Each Other’
“It makes sense for us to learn from each other and grow with each other,” he said during a June 10 phone interview.
There were several reasons it made sense to unify with DC 1707, he said, including a shared interest in the future of the Cultural Institutions Retirement System, which provides retirement benefits to DC 37-represented staff at organizations such as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the American Museum of Natural History. The pension system, which also provides benefits to day-care employees, became underfunded during the Bloomberg administration after hundreds of early-childhood centers were either privatized or closed.
“We were both in a situation where we were concerned our members’ pensions would be affected,” Mr. Garrido explained.
DC 1707 Executive Director Kim Medina said that another reason to join forces was last year’s Janus decision, which determined that public-employee unions can no longer collect agency-fee payments from nonmembers. Unions across the country feared that the ruling would hurt their funding: in right-to-work states, which have laws that prevent union membership and paying dues from being conditions of employment, participation in unions has declined.
‘Strength in Numbers’
“There’s strength in numbers,” she said following a July 9 press conference at City Hall announcing a tentative deal between her union and the Day Care Council of New York that if ratified would end a decades-long gap in starting salaries between certified Teachers who work at community-based day-care centers and those who work for the Department of Education.
Over the past few months, DC 1707 has aggressively campaigned for an end to the pay disparity: certified Teachers who worked at community-based centers had a starting salary of $42,000, $17,000 less than staff working for the DOE. Mr. Garrido assisted in the negotiations for a deal that would boost 300 Teachers’ salaries by up to $20,000 by Oct. 1, 2021. Another 3,900 non-certified Teachers and support staff would receive a 2.75 percent wage increase and a $1,800 signing bonus.
“Immediately after we partnered, we’ve already granted the workers a victory,” he said.
Ms. Medina will remain DC 1707’s executive director and the union is staying at its headquarters in Midtown West. Although the district councils joined forces last month, it was first announced during the press conference related to the parity agreement. Mr. Garrido said that the unions held town hall meetings with members, where the decision was “well-received.”
Areas to Collaborate
He added that the partnership was especially important because the non-profit staff often worked in organizations that regularly faced cuts to their Federal funding. “We’re going to collaborate on issues like health care and make sure the early child-care industry doesn’t get defunded or mistreated,” he said.
Mr. Garrido added that the fact that two-thirds of early-childhood education staffers were not unionized was reflective of a broader problem within the labor movement.
“Our message to those workers is that we can be helpful in fighting for you and protecting your programs,” he said.
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