We are beginning the great budget battle of 2009. Every year, it is a struggle to ensure that the city and state treat working people with fairness and respect. But this year, resources are thinner than they have been in decades, and every dollar will be hard won.
We are beginning the great budget battle of 2009. Every year, it is a struggle to ensure that the city and state treat working people with fairness and respect. But this year, resources are thinner than they have been in decades, and every dollar will be hard won. In these difficult times, union leadership is especially important to prevent the collapse of our economy from falling squarely on the working class. We in the leadership of Local 237 will be in the front lines of this battle, fighting hard to protect the wages, benefits and working conditions of our members.
Even after raising property and hotel taxes, the city budget still faces a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the upcoming year. Mayor Bloomberg has called for reduced pension benefits and givebacks for new members in upcoming contraction negotiations, saying the moves are necessary to avoid layoffs. The mayor has presented a worst-case scenario for the city and its workers, but we see the situation as less black and white. We will be working with the administration over the coming months to deliver a plan that balances financial responsibility with workers’ rights.
Making matters more complicated, the first round of federal stimulus money has begun to trickle down from Albany. While this bundle of money is welcome relief for our cash strapped government, hundreds of hands are grabbing for every piece of it. We will partner with the mayor and other unions to ensure that every dollar is spent to bring much needed opportunities and relief to workers around New York.
Fortunately, Local 237 has prepared well for this fight. By communicating with elected officials, raising our profile with rallies and working with other unions, we have positioned our- selves to collect our fair share of this funding. Already, the New York City Housing Authority has received $400 million from the stimulus package for capital projects, money that will go towards building affordable housing, fixing broken elevators and upgrading dilapidated buildings. For our members, those improvements mean better working conditions; for NYCHA’s resi- dents, it means a better quality of life.
I addressed the importance of quality public housing with a strong workforce at several important forums on the subject recently at the Community Service Society and at a joint conference hosted by Community Board 7 and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, both in Manhattan. As an activist in the public discussion on public housing, I was able to stress the need for this critically needed revitalization.
This effort is not only meant to rebuild America’s infrastructure, however, but to boost the economy by empowering America’s workforce. I will be meeting with housing officials to gain support for additional jobs and more pay for our NYCHA employees. We need to put more money in the pockets of the city’s workers, not only for them and their families, but to increase their spending power in these tough economic times.
The stimulus money arrives on the heels of a bold new plan for America outlined in President Obama’s federal budget. In one stroke, he has redefined the government’s mission to help working-class men and women. By focusing on jobs, education and health care, Obama has presented a bold vision for our country in which opportunity and fairness are not merely slogans, but realities for all Americans. Our leadership is committed to supporting him in his efforts to change America for the better.
With Obama, we saw the ability of regular citizens to make tremendous change. I’d like to remind our members that we will be holding a political forum for all citywide office candidates on April 18 at the New York Hilton. As one of the largest unions in the city, we have the power to help elect leaders who will shape the policies of tomorrow. But we must become as informed as possible. The forum will help us learn more about the candidates’ ideas and vision for the future of our city.
Women’s History Month
March is International Women’s History month. On page 11 you will find articles in honor of this occasion. And I would like to conclude by acknowledging the contributions women have made to Local 237, to the trade union movement generally, and to the building of our country. Gender is too often overlooked in our conversations and activities regarding equality. But, as illustrated in this issue, each day we grow closer to the American dream of equal treatment for all.