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By LILLIAN ROBERTS
After Hurricane Sandy flooded our building and damaged much of its infrastructure, major repairs kept us out until July 2013. The ordeal we faced tested our resolve to keep providing leadership, services and benefits to union members.
With vital assistance from our national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and from our sister District Council 1707 and many other unions and organizations, we found 28 locations around the city to operate from. With the dedication and hard work of many local presidents and staffers and impressive leadership from Associate Directors Henry Garrido and Oliver Gray, we stayed on the job for members and came back home stronger than ever.
We overcame nature's challenge and we survived a city administration intent on weakening unions, replacing public service employees with private contractors and cutting workers' pay, pensions and benefits by failing to budget funds for new contracts. We went on to mobilize members and activists to help elect a new mayor, public advocate and comptroller by landslide votes.
Bill de Blasio kicked off his mayoralty with a bold move that every New York City resident and every city employee can applaud.
In one of his first acts in office, the new mayor protected public services by canceling layoffs of social service and other employees at the Housing Authority who were targeted by the previous administration. We still have long-term issues to resolve there, but our new mayor took a humane step that indicates how different 2014 will be from the last 12 years.
Immediately canceling those layoffs showed - very favorably - what he is made of and paved the way for a fair and open discussion of how the city can best meet the needs of its 400,000 public housing residents - including about 15,000 DC 37 members - and the concerns of the employees our union represents.
Labor backs de Blasio on pre-K
Labor is 100 percent with de Blasio on his proposal to offer pre-kindergarten classes to all 4-year-olds and fund the program with a small income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making over $500,000 - a half million dollars - a year. Unions representing over one million New Yorkers will be lobbying state lawmakers to pass the plan, and hundreds of our DC 37 activists will go to Albany to press for it.
The mayor's drive for free, quality, universal pre-K tells us that he really cares about the working families and the poor of our city. This would be an important investment in the future of our children and grandchildren that would help them advance in school, play productive roles in the global economy and narrow the tragic income gap between the wealthy 1 percent and the rest of us. It is only fair to ask for funding from those who profit the most and can best afford it.
As we move full speed into this bright new year, we are part of something big. This will be a year of change, and problems could develop, but I expect that with good will on all sides, we can work out any rough edges.
We understand that settling contracts with 300,000 city employees working under 150 expired pacts will be a major challenge for the new administration, but DC 37 is a strong union in a good position to start bargaining on a new economic agreement, since we have already submitted our demands. For our members, I believe 2014 will be an outstanding year.