Just before midnight on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, history was made.
After 232 years of existence and 40 years since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the people elected the first African American to serve as President of the United States.
During the presidential campaign of 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy of New York was asked how long he thought it would take for an African American to be elected President. His reply: “Forty years.”
America is a better place today, not just because it has gained a leader with the great promise of Barack Obama, but because the dreams of millions have been realized by his historic victory.
Wherever you were, whatever you were doing on Election Day, we were all participants in this historic event, one which many thought they would never live to see. We are proud that Local 237, and our International, not only witnessed this achievement, but helped make it happen. In Presidentelect Obama, Local 237 has a friend and strong ally who understands the needs of workingclass people, and will fight alongside us to make our dreams a reality.
Throughout the campaign, members of Local 237 knocked on doors, organized voter registration drives, distributed information and energized the electorate to participate in the election. I am honored to have played a role in this historic campaign and proud of the contribution Local 237 made to its success.
New Yorkers also made history in local politics by electing a Democratic majority to the State Senate for the first time in over 40 years. In doing so, it was all but assured that Malcolm Smith would become the first African American to hold the position of Majority Leader of the State Senate.
From the time the position of Majority Leader of the State Senate was first created, following the adoption of the New York State Constitution in 1938, only one Democrat has held the Senate’s top spot. Now, for just the second time in 70 years, Democrats have regained control of that body. Local 237 looks forward to working with all members of the State Senate, irrespective of party affiliation, families and the labor community.
Local 237 also earned a substantial victory this past month when we reached a labor agreement with Mayor Bloomberg. Facing the worst fiscal crisis in decades and the potential loss of tens of thousands of jobs across the state, Local 237 negotiated the successful settlement of a contract that guarantees the protection of our members during these economically uncertain times.
The contracts we engineered contained a wage increase greater than the rate of inflation and surpassed the contracts other unions throughout the country and within the city received — all accomplished during the near collapse of our financial institutions and the expected loss of substantial tax revenue for the city.
It has been estimated that in the fiscal year 2010, beginning July 1, 2009, the city’s budget deficit will reach a staggering $3.3 billion. Worse yet are the estimated 200,000 jobs which might be lost in the year to come.
Protecting jobs must be of paramount importance in any plan for economic recovery. During tough times, people have always gotten by with less, but they can’t get by with nothing. Local 237 will fight to protect the jobs of our members.
Funding for Housing
Our strong advocacy for increased funding for public housing is already showing signs of success at the federal level. I look forward to working with Presidentelect Obama, Senators Schumer and Clinton, and the New York Congressional Delegation, to secure the funding required to meet the needs of the New Yorkers who live and work in public housing.
Last month we testified at a City Council hearing on elevator repair and maintenance, emphasizing the critical importance of not cutting jobs in that area. I also drafted a letter to Congress demanding the inclusion of more funding for public housing in any future stimulus packages.
Local 237 looks forward to working with President Obama, a new Congress and new Democratic majority in the State Senate to provide quality and affordable housing for New York City’s working families.
The presidential campaign gave us renewed hope and a vision for the future of our country. Now that the rhetoric is over, the real work begins. And we intend to redouble our efforts to engage all city, state and federal officials on behalf of the interests of working families and the labor community.
Regardless of how weak the city and state economy become over the coming months, Local 237 will stay strong, will stay united, and will stay committed to improving the quality of life of our members.