New York City workers and their families enjoy healthcare and retirement benefits that are among the best in the country. Through the Local 237 welfare funds, members receive prescription, dental, optical and disability benefits. Generations of members have also taken advantage of Local 237’s education and legal services as well as free retirement and financial planning services.
All of these benefits are funded by the City and administered by the union. Many workers choose to work in the public sector because the benefits are often superior to those available in the private sector.
But that wasn’t always the case. Once City workers were able to form unions, they had to fight hard for everything they won, including health benefits, pensions, paid leave and worker protections.
Established in 1952, Teamsters Local 237 was on the forefront of the labor movement. Union founders wasted no time in demanding better lives for workers and members fought along side them.
In 1959, Local 237 was the first union in New York City to establish a city-funded welfare fund. It benefited workers in the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity. Similar to the annuities that Local 237 members have today, the city paid in $2 a day for each worker. Upon retirement workers would receive their fund benefit.
While the first Local 237 Welfare Fund may seem modest by today’s standards, it was revolutionary in its time. It was the start of the comprehensive union benefit package we have today. And It is a reminder that a strong, unified union is the only real protection and means of advancement for workers.
An article from the July 1959 issue of International Teamster magazine.
Click Here to read an interview with John Hartter, a founding Local 237 member who worked in the City Dept. of Water Supply
Hercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.
Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.