Holidays are about giving thanks with your family. I consider all the members of Local 237 to be a family, and I hope you do too. We understand each other. We fight for each other. When push comes to shove, we are there for each other. As a family, we have much to be thankful for this holiday season. Although it was a difficult year for much of the nation, Local 237 managed to prosper in these difficult times.
We kept our jobs, maintained our health care and received new contracts with decent raises. We succeeded in receiving stimulus dollars to repair NYCHA facilities, and we made headway to secure more funding for public housing employees. We won political battles in both Albany and City Hall. In this fall’s elections, we supported many winning political candidates who will work with us in the future to continue that success.
Like any family, it is our unity that makes us strong. Local 237 is made up of many different workers doing many different jobs. And yet, we all have so much in common. No matter what title or position, we all struggle to make better lives for ourselves and our families. That is why we come together to fight for better pay and benefits. United, we are much more than just a group of workers; we are a force that must be respected. We are a voice that must be answered. During these holidays, give thanks not only for all that our union family has accomplished, but also for that union family itself. Be thankful we have each other.
The Days Ahead
We must take our commitment to each other into the next year, when our resolve will again be tested. Even as the economy begins to improve, government budgets are still being cut, meaning that municipal employee layoffs are always a threat. We must hold officials — both inside and outside of government — to their promises that they would support labor in good times and bad. It is encouraging that President Obama has already convened a jobs summit at the White House for the country’s leading business and labor leaders to present ideas on expanding our workforce and lowering the unemployment rate.
This leadership should serve as a model for all of us — in government, private industry and unions — to pledge ourselves to empowering the workers of this country. Already, new reports show that the country is losing fewer jobs. That’s a holiday gift we can be happy about!
Even with our efforts and our record of service to this city, there are those who still attack our members needlessly and without cause. The New York Civil Liberties Union continues to attack our brave and dedicated SSAs who have played a large part in lowering crime in schools. Although I believe that accountability in our schools is important, the NYCLU is attempting to push a law that would single out and unfairly criticize those who keep our children safe. They are using our SSAs as a way to create publicity for themselves, which may be good for them but it is not good for New York City. Next year, we will continue fighting tooth and nail in City Hall, in the media and in the courts if necessary to make sure that our SSAs are treated with the respect they deserve.
We must keep up our fight to ensure that quality public housing and services are a reality for the many New Yorkers who need it. This fall, we joined with many state and local politicians to rally for increased funding for NYCHA. We are already planning more protests and other actions to keep attention on this important cause. NYCHA residents cannot have a decent quality of life if the workers who maintain their homes are overworked and understaffed. Now that we have begun to upgrade the buildings, it’s time to improve the level of service that keeps them running. This effort will make a better future both for our members and the tens of thousands of people whose lives they enrich.
We must stay strong as we face these continued challenges. I am confident about the future, however, because of the success we’ve had in the past. We have positioned ourselves well to increase our standing throughout the city and state. We will continue to work as hard as we can to make that happen. So as the holidays pass along this year, give thanks but also relax and enjoy them. We worked hard to get where we are, and we all deserve it.