It’s a new day for New York City’s 5,000 school safety agents. They will finally be receiving the wages we have fought for over the years and which they so deserve. New York City offered school safety agents a two-part proposal, including a new contract that was overwhelmingly ratified by voting members, and a proposed settlement of the equal-pay lawsuit.
Local 237 is proud to represent school safety agents who often face physical dangers as they carry out their duties to protect our children, teachers and school administrators. I vowed to fight for their fair wages no matter how long it took. Since 2010, when the equal-pay lawsuit was filed by school safety agents, we fought tirelessly with help from a wide range of supporters. That’s why we are so gratified to have reached a settlement that includes a bonus, a raise and retroactive pay.
Over the years school safety agents, who are certified peace officers, were forced to accept making $7,000 less per year than other peace officers who perform similar work for the city. The case of bias was clear in that 70 percent of school safety agents are women, whereas 70 percent of peace officers who work in public hospitals, colleges and other sites are predominantly men.
That was outright discrimination, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is a champion who kept a promise he made while campaigning last year to settle our lawsuit. When asked about the discrepancy, then mayoral candidate de Blasio said in a debate that “People who do security work, who protect us, who protect our children, deserve not only respect, they deserve equal pay. It’s a no-brainer. Absolutely.”
This settlement will go a long way in helping people like School Safety Agent Kangela Moore, a hardworking mother of two children in Queens, who makes $35,323 a year. Moore says that every month she has to struggle to put food on the table and pay her bills. While she would love to go back to college, she couldn’t afford it. Now, hopefully, she can.
I want to thank the mayor for viewing women with dignity and keeping his word. Many people came to our aid and some were instrumental in highlighting the issue on a national scale, such as feminist icon Lilly Ledbetter, who joined us on the steps of City Hall with a rousing call for justice. “I’ve lived what they are going through,” said Ledbetter. “It’s not only illegal it’s immoral. It’s not just women, its families that suffer. Retirement and Social Security are shortchanged. You can’t catch up.”
We were so proud and grateful to have her join us in this fight along with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City Chapter of the National Organization for Women; Public Advocate Letitia James; Mary Lou Urban and May Campbell, copresidents of the League of Women Voters, and Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State Chapter of the NAACP.
Most of all I’m grateful to all the school safety agents who signed on to the lawsuit and patiently waited, with no guarantees, while performing their duties at work and at home and entrusting their union to watch their backs, which we did with every resource possible. A majority of school safety agents are mothers and many are the sole breadwinners in their households. Some actually work in the schools where their children attend. These are the people for whom we fought and won.
Over the next few years, school safety agents will have the opportunity to do more as their wages rise to parity with their fellow peace officers. I hope they will take advantage of our new financial planning program and be able to save and invest in their dreams for the future. I look forward to helping to bring even more to the table for the Local 237 family as opportunities arise.