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  Public Employee Press

PEP Oct 2014
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Fighting for equality
Women's Committee has empowerment on the agenda


Executive Director Lillian Roberts (center) is honored at the Women's Conference with special guests City Comptroller Scott Springer and Rep. Charles Rangel.

Crystal Hawkins
Local 983

Yetta Kurland
Kurland and Associates

The DC 37 Women's Committee and the Political Action and Legislation Dept. held their first Women's Conference on Saturday, Sept. 13, at union headquarters.

"We want to address some of the issues facing women, such as pay equity and paid maternity leave, and start to develop an agenda and strategy," said Walthene Primus, chair of the Women's Committee and president of Local 957.

Wanda Williams, director of the Political Action and Legislation Dept. welcomed the activists and guest speakers and shared the agenda for the day; the conference began with a video presentation of the AFSCME Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to Executive Director Lillian Roberts at the recent AFSCME convention in Chicago.

Congressional representatives Charles Rangel and Carolyn Maloney also attended the conference and acknowledged the valuable contributions made by DC 37 and Roberts on behalf of municipal workers. Maloney called Roberts "one of our country's greatest union leaders."

Maloney also called for the creation of a women's museum in Washington, DC.

Rangel presented Roberts with a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition and thanked the union for helping to send him back to Washington for his 23rd term in Congress.

Henry Garrido, DC 37 associate director, addressed the members and spoke about some of the inequities of the civil service system and the union's commitment to seeking due process for the 20,000 provisional employees that work for the city.

Members applaud keynote speakers.

Yetta Kurland, partner and founder of Kurland and Associates, has been studying the city's workforce and Title 7, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color and sex, and has found that there is a lack of access to statistical information, which is needed to determine working conditions. These conditions, she said, create an environment that encourages disparities in pay. "The city workforce should be a model for the rest of the country," Kurland said in her presentation. She also recommended that the city grant more flextime for women.

Former DC 37 staffer and author Jane LaTour shared examples of women who were pioneers in breaking into industries to do jobs that were once exclusively for men.
Crystal Hawkins, a member of Local 983, is one of those pioneers. An Assistant City Highway Repairer, Hawkins has worked many non-traditional jobs, from driving tractors and shoveling asphalt to clearing roads and highways after hurricanes.

"I love every minute of it," Hawkins said. "If it looks clean, we cleaned it."

On the panel that discussed political empowerment, Brooklyn City Council member Laurie Cumbo, who is also chair of the Council's Women's Committee, pledged to keep fighting for paid maternity leave.

The keynote speaker was state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who represents the 35th SD in Yonkers. She grew up in public housing in Manhattan and stressed the importance of labor unions and the impact that belonging to a union had on her family. "We had health care, thanks to the union, and that made a big difference for me and my family," she said.

City Comptroller Scott Springer, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council member Rosie Mendez and Assembly member Michaelle Solages, from Nassau County, also attended and encouraged the union to fight for more female voices in government, equal pay and paid maternity leave. James also urged that labor extend a hand to fast-food workers in their struggles for higher wages and the right to unionize.

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