Often I write to you about how Local 237 fights for every one of our members. This month I can tell you that, thanks to your support, our union has scored a big victory.
After months of standing firm, we have reached a contract agreement with the city for our 9,000 NYCHA employees. I’m proud that we held our ground and received a fair deal, 8.16 percent over two years. We refused to take less than we deserve. We refused to settle for less than other unions. We refused to buckle under to pressure to place the financial burden of the city on the backs of our members.
Our resilience forced the city to recognize our hard work and honor it with good pay. I want to thank all our members for standing with us and continuing to do excellent work in the face of uncertainty. It is not easy to have your livelihood in doubt, but you stayed strong and united. This contract would not have been possible without your support.
I also want to thank Mayor Michael Bloomberg and new NYCHA Chairman John Rhea, who negotiated with us in good faith and eventually offered a fair contract. Even when both sides talked tough at the bargaining table, no one ever stepped away from it for long. I hope this is the first of many strong contracts we will sign with Rhea in the future.
Considering our Housing Division contract and our Citywide Division contract last October, we have had a very good year. For two years, our members will receive raises well above the rate of inflation, meaning they will have more money than in the past. That is why we fight so hard, to make life better for our members. At the end of the day, that is the goal, and I am excited to say that we have succeeded.
Continuing the Fight
Even as we have won one fight, we are still battling on other fronts. In Albany, they have passed a bill to return control of New York City’s schools to the mayor. In the process, however, they have included an amendment that specifically singles out our school safety agents for unnecessary public criticism at parent meetings. we will not stand by as the state government creates a forum for our SSAs to receive more undeserved complaints about their performance, which has been more than admirable.
The fact is that our SSAs do an excellent job protecting our students, and public officials need to stop using them as a public punching bag. Crime has dropped in our schools for the last several years. At the same time, more of our SSAs are being assaulted, and we are seeking to curb such attacks with legislation that would make them a felony.
Our SSAs are putting themselves in harm’s way to help keep our youth on the straight and narrow path toward safety and success. For every one complaint, there are a hundred acts of kindness or bravery that go unsung. We should be doing more to talk about these acts, not about the complaints.
I have no problem with parents’ meetings, but actually making it a legal requirement to discuss school safety agents at these meetings is unacceptable. We have asked both Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor David Paterson to remove or change this amendment, and we will continue to work to protect the reputation of our members.
Power of the Vote
To continue winning these battles, we must keep on being vocal. That means speaking our mind and making sure our members go to the polls. You often hear me talk about the power we have in numbers and the importance of voting, and this year is particularly important. With the citywide and City Council races occurring this fall, we need to play a role in selecting the leaders that will run New York over the next four years.
As you know, in New York the real election is often the Democratic Primary, which will occur on September 15, around the time you receive this message. I hope by now most of you are registered to vote and ready to stand up for Local 237 Teamsters and support the candidates we have endorsed on the front page of this edition. Participating in our democracy is not only your right, it should be a responsibility we all take seriously. For when we stand up together, there will be many more victories in our future.