Unacceptable! Just over one month ago a 5-year-old child fell to his death at the New York City Housing Authority’s Taylor Wythe apartment complex in Brooklyn.
The elevator where the accident occurred was scheduled to be modernized in 2004, but the work was twice deferred because of cuts in federal aid; and this is simply unacceptable. Facing a nearly $200 million operating deficit, NYCHA is daily losing the ability to meet the needs of its residents and ensure the safety of its workers.
As the representative of nearly 9,000 employees of the Housing Authority, Local 237 Teamsters has challenged members of the federal government to immediately address this problem and meet their obligation to fund public housing. Even if NYCHA was properly funded, this accident may have unfortunately occurred, but the incident serves as an appalling example of the federal government’s failure to fund public housing.
From 2001-2008, NYCHA accumulated a deficit of $611 million, including $450 million which was cut from funding for renovations including elevator repair. Other basic maintenance services, including carpentry, sanitation, painting, and heat and HVAC maintenance are often delayed because of federal cutbacks. The failure of the federal government has severely diminished the quality of life for residents and created a danger to workers who lack the proper equipment and resources.
From Day One
From my first day in office as President of Local 237, I have fought to restore funding for public housing and protect the jobs of our members. It is a moral imperative that the nearly half a million residents and workers of public housing have an opportunity to receive the educational, recreational and employment services NYCHA was created to offer. This is an ongoing struggle that our collective conscious demands we cannot and will not lose.
In addition to carrying the flag in the fight to save public housing, Local 237 earned a substantial victory this past month when it reached a tentative labor agreement with Mayor Bloomberg. While the financial markets were crumbling and tens of thousands of jobs were put at risk, Local 237 negotiated the successful settlement of a contract that guarantees the protection of our members during these economically uncertain times.
Contracts are judged by three primary qualities: 1) is the wage increase greater than the rate of inflation; 2) how does the contract compare with other unions throughout the country and within the city; and 3) what is the economic climate of the employer. The contract we reached not only meets all measuring tools, but actually exceeds every characteristic of a fair and successful contract.
The wage increase we negotiated is over 4 percent a year, for a total increase of 8.16 percent for the two-year duration of the contract. Comparatively, the rate of inflation over the next two years is expected to be 5.4 percent; therefore, our contract provides for a wage increase nearly 2.8 percent greater than the average rate of inflation, guaranteeing that our members will see significant gains throughout the term of the agreement. Further, the average wage increase for a two year period throughout the country is only 6.4 percent. Our contract package will put us at least 2 percent ahead of other contracts being settled nationwide at this time. And, aside from the wage increases, we arranged for the city to contribute $200 per retiree to the Retiree Health and Welfare Fund and .25% of additional compensation to purchase recurring benefits.
The financial outlook for the city, state and our country is bleak. The State faces a $6 billion deficit and the city anticipates a $3 billion budget deficit; and that was before the collapse of our financial market came into effect. However, even during these dire times, Local 237 was able to secure the best possible financial package for our members.
In the coming months, the collective strength of our union and that of all other municipal workers will be put to the test by an economy struggling to survive. But as always, your leadership at Local 237 is prepared to act on your behalf and will continue to explore all possible avenues to ensure that our members receive the benefits they are entitled to and the services they deserve.