“I think the leadership has failed workers for a while,” said Nirmal Lorick, who is challenging the longtime president of Teamsters Local 237, Gregory Floyd, in the union’s upcoming election. “People are feeling like they want someone to stand up for them.”
Mr. Lorick, who has worked at the Housing Authority for 30 years, said that School Safety Agents, NYCHA employees, Department of Homeless Services Officers, as well as other titles represented by 24,000-member union, were being “beaten down” by low morale, sparking his decision to run. Mail-in ballots, which will be sent out later this month, are due back Oct. 7, and will be counted by Global Election Solutions.
Stresses Safety, Weapons
If he wins, Mr. Lorick said that a major priority for him would be to ensure the safety of Local 237 members.
“There needs to be better training for officers at Health + Hospitals because they’re often dealing with mentally ill people. They also need some sort of weapon,” he said, adding that he wants to the union take more-aggressive action against those who harass its members.
Mr. Floyd, who has headed the union since stepping up after then-president Carl Haynes retired prior to the end of his term in 2007 and was elected for his first full term in 2009, pointed to his record as the reason why he deserved to win a third five-year term.
He cited as one example the union’s 2014 lawsuit win concerning a $7,000 wage gap that School Safety Agents—who were mostly black and Latina women—faced in comparison those to other titles performing similar duties in other city agencies.
“This is no time for amateurs,” he said during a Sept. 11 phone interview. “We’ve settled about 25 contracts, including on Long Island. The diversity of our union is represented in our slate. We understand how New York City works and how politics work. We have a lot of challenges ahead and we’re ready to face them.”
Other ‘237’ Contests
Mr. Lorick’s team, the Members First Slate, included Robert Guilbe, Jr., who was part of the union’s negotiation committee and is running against incumbent Ruben Torres, and Denise McIntosh, who is campaigning for secretary-treasurer. She will face off against the union’s current citywide director Donald Arnold Jr., since Edmund Kane, the incumbent secretary-treasurer, plans to retire.
Filling out the slate were Latika Thorpe, who is running against current recording secretary Jeanette Taveras, and Victor Carillo, Juan Prescott and Denise Brister, who are all campaigning for trustee positions.
Improving pay was another area where Mr. Lorick believed that current leadership dropped the ball. “There’s a lot of people working at the agency who are homeless. The union fell asleep on us, and people are very, very stressed out,” he said.
Ms. McIntosh, who has worked as a School Safety Agent since 2002, said that the “heartbeat” of the union has been failing because it has been divided. She also cited concerns that the officers faced dangerous situations but were not able to sufficiently protect themselves. Mr. Arnold, who is running against Ms. McIntosh on Mr. Floyd’s slate, declined to respond.
Discontent on Schedules
In January, NYCHA Caretakers and Supervisors ratified a pact that offered an alternative work schedule, which included options for a four-day workweek. But some members have voiced discontent with the changes, saying that although they were told they would be able to select from one of several schedules, some staff members have had no choice. In May, Maintenance workers voted down a tentative contract that would have granted them a 7.4 percent raise over four years and also offered extended schedules. The next step was arbitration.
“[Caretakers] didn’t have enough time to vote on that. So now they have a schedule they don’t even want,” Mr. Lorick said. “Maintenance Workers had a chance to vote on the contract and that’s why they voted it down.”
Mr. Floyd has said that the reaction to the alternative schedules has been “mixed” because when NYCHA did not accommodate workers and “rushes to stick people wherever they want, that has caused problems.”
If re-elected, he said, protecting jobs, maintaining benefits and addressing the funding shortage at NYCHA were “just the start” of the union’s priorities.
But Mr. Lorick said that 12 years of the same leadership was enough. “I think it’s time for a change and I want to be that,” he said.
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