As the summer draws to a close, I hope you enjoyed the warm days in the company of friends and loved ones. In the previous edition of Newsline, I discussed new ideas Local 237 was developing to improve the quality of life for our members. I would like to update you on our success and our plans for the coming months.
On Tuesday, September 9, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to shape their own future. In preparation for the Primary Election, Local 237 has gone to great lengths to organize voter registration drives for residents of New York City Housing Authority developments. Energizing NYCHA workers and residents to participate in the upcoming election is a key to our ability to influence city, state and federal elections. By actively engaging in these campaigns we can ensure that candidates seeking office recognize our needs and make a commitment to meet them.
At a recent Housing Division shop stewards meeting, I called for increased political action, assistance from workers to register tenants of NYCHA, and voting for union-endorsed candidates. The consistent and adequate funding needed to save public housing depends on electing candidates who will meet those obligations. The choice is simple. We can vote for those who are committed to helping us, or we can stay home on Election Day and let decisions that affect us be made by others. The members of Local 237 have always risen to the occasion when called upon to act, and I am confident that we will do the same on Primary Day.
Signs of Success
Our strong advocacy for increased funding for public housing is showing signs of success on the federal level. In a bipartisan effort, New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer, along with 28 Senate colleagues, including Senator Hillary Clinton, called for an emergency appropriation for public housing to be included in this year’s budget. In a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, Robert Byrd, Senator Schumer requested an additional $500 million for the Public Housing Operating Fund, and $500 million for the Public Housing Capital Fund, stating that additional funding would create an immediate economic stimulus while preserving the physical integrity of our affordable housing. I have no doubt that the success of our May 1 rally, the three national radio advertisements we took out during the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, and our non-stop efforts to raise awareness about the public housing crisis prompted this much needed action.
Recently, there was some discussion about the possibility of selling off development rights at NYCHA facilities. Without speaking to Local 237, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer injected himself into the discussion, showing that he was more concerned about the interests of developers than the workers or residents of NYCHA. In response, I drafted a Letter to the Editor of the New York Sun, where I wrote, in part: “The 9,000 public housing employees I represent as President of Teamsters Local 237 are not for sale. The residents of nearly 200,000 NYCHA apartments are not for sale. And NYCHA is not for sale regardless of what Stringer or his developer friends may want.”
When the City Council and New York Civil Liberties Union teamed up to attack school safety agents with the School Safety Act, Local 237 was the first to defend the safety agents. Allowing the Civilian Complaint Review Board to probe safety agents places them in double jeopardy without any defense, something all citizens are supposed to be protected against. Safety agents have performed their jobs with great success, receiving much deserved praise from Mayor Bloomberg for decreasing crimes in the city’s public schools. Instead of congratulating them, the Council chose to demoralize safety agents for doing a good job.
In media reports and television interviews, I defended safety officers, saying: “The School Safety Act does not make schools safer. It does not improve the ability of safety officers to do their job or guarantee the responsible treatment of children. It punishes safety agents who protect our schools for political purposes and that is unacceptable.”
Showing clear support for our position, the Daily News published an editorial criticizing the Council as “School Safety Dunces,” and defending the work of safety agents for reducing crime in schools.
Fighting battles on behalf of our members is especially gratifying for me. And signs of progress confirm that our union is headed toward a better tomorrow.