With summer in full swing, I want to wish all of you a happy, healthy and fun-filled season. Hopefully, we can all find some time to enjoy the warm days in the company of friends and loved ones. While many things around the city slow down throughout the summer, Teamsters Local 237 is just beginning to heat up with new ideas and services to improve the quality of life for our union brothers and sisters. Because this will be the last edition of the Newsline for the summer, I would like to share with you news about recent events and our plans for a new advocacy campaign we’re launching regarding public pensions.The race for the Democratic presidential nomination has finally come to an end. Not only was Senator Barack Obama victorious, but so too was the Democratic Party. The recordsetting number of voters who flocked to the polls due to the magnetism of Senators Obama and Clinton will provide the Democratic Party with a major boost come November, and a real shot at taking back the White House and turning this country around. We have to keep that momentum going by bringing even more people into the political process.
Local 237 is organizing voter registration drives for workers and residents in all of our public housing facilities, and I encourage each of you to take part. The more people we can register to vote, the more voices will be heard on Election Day. Our strength has always been in our numbers. With the presidency at stake we must show that strength by showing up to vote.
The Fight for Public Housing
Our fight to save public housing continued with an extraordinary display of support on the steps of City Hall. I joined Council Members James Vacca and Rosie Mendez, as well as hundreds of community activists and senior and youth center organizations, to protest proposed cuts to NYCHA. As NYCHA has fallen deeper into debt and cut many vital services, nearly 500,000 residents who work and live in public housing have seen a drastic decline in their quality of life. And now, because of the multi-million dollar budget deficit, 400 community- based programs for seniors and children are at risk of elimination. This is unacceptable. I will continue to advocate on behalf of public housing and our members who work and live there. No one should ever be denied the basic necessities of life.
The last issue I want to bring up is the attacks on public pensions. In certain sectors of this city, a movement has recently developed which holds that public pensions hurt the economy and cost the city money. Only people who don’t have to work for a living, like you and I, or support a family, like you and I, would form such an opinion.
Throughout their history, unions have often chosen to take less money in pure wages and salaries in order to preserve more lucrative pension and benefits packages that provide for the future well-being of its members. Members of the working class, among whom I am proud to be, and to represent as president of this union, realize that the security of a comprehensive pension and benefits package is an invaluable safety tool to ensure that workers and their families are protected. However, public pensions can be taken away if we are not careful.
In times of economic downturn, it has been suggested that public pensions drain city and state budgets. Therefore, some people who have no appreciation of what it’s like to be a part of a working-class family would like to strip away those pensions. What they don’t understand is that pensions help our workers contribute to society in their retirement years by keeping them economically viable. If pensions are taken away, public workers will be left destitute upon retirement, forced onto the bread lines to survive, and incapable of bringing money into the economy through the purchase of goods.
With a decent pension, there is an economic benefit to the community in which a worker retires, but if that same worker is stripped of his or her pension and left without means to survive, they will undoubtedly become a drain on social services. Plus, better pension benefits help attract a better qualified and dedicated municipal work force which allows the public sector to operate more efficiently and cost effectively. The years of public service that civil and municipal workers dedicate to society should be celebrated for their immeasurable value by protecting their right to a dignified retirement. Anything less is a complete abandonment of the economic and moral principles which are the foundation for any successful and decent society.