Union Fights Against Arbitrary Changes

Read the article from this month's Unionist by our very own Carl Cook!

Carl Cook

Carl Cook

Vice President of Negotiations & Research
SSEU Local 371

‘The workers who make up District Council 37 have kept New York City running for the last 18 months. They’ve proven time and again that no matter where they are, the job will get done.’

In the past few weeks, a lot of information was shared with our members regarding mandatory vaccinations, weekly testing, and the full-time return to office.  Historically, prior to any citywide changes affecting all mayoral agencies, unions via the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) or District Council 37 (DC 37) would meet to discuss the projected changes and present our members’ concerns along with possible resolutions.

Many unions filed for a temporary restraining order against the city’s vaccine mandate. The hearing is scheduled for September 22, 2021. SSEU Local 371 and many other unions are encouraging our members to get vaccinated, but President Wells on many occasions has stated that the union does not support any mandate that would force our members to take the vaccination. The freedom of choice should not be taken away from anyone; however, we encourage all our members to keep their face masks on and continue best practices as it relates to your own safety and that of your colleagues.

Currently, in many mayoral agencies, workers have the option of providing proof of vaccination or submitting to weekly testing. Medical and religious exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

On Monday, September 13, 2021, as per Mayor de Blasio’s order, all municipal workers returned back to their respective offices on a full-time basis bringing an end to hybrid schedules, with the exception of some reasonable accommodations. It’s extremely important to note that some of our members across various agencies, due to the nature of their jobs, never had the opportunity to telework or enjoy any form of a hybrid schedule. The union(s) and many members alike do not support this decision due to a plethora of outstanding safety issues and concerns, such as the lack of plexiglass in
client interview areas, poor ventilation, and delays in cleaning after a positive case is reported—to name a few. Our members’ safety is paramount. 

This is why our DC37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, with the support of President Wells and other local presidents, filed an improper practice petition against the city regarding the premature return to office at full capacity. In a New York Daily News op-ed, Garrido noted, “The workers who make up District Council 37 have kept New York City running for the last 18 months. They’ve proven time and again that no matter where they are, the job will get done.” With the extremely contagious delta variant and all the others, the landscape of Covid-19 is too uncertain to needlessly force people back to their desks.

We will not let our members be used as guinea pigs. The filing of the improper practice petition is a clear way to fight back against the mayor’s rush to fully reoccupy these offices with a clear and present danger still lurking in the form of the delta variant. We will keep our members apprised as information becomes available via the union’s website, social media, and other forms of communication.

Our Health and Safety Directors Jose Santos and Magda Santos have been vigorously conducting safety assessments across the city in conjunction with Deborah Williams, director for health and safety at DC 37. Collectively, they have completed more than 200 since the beginning of the pandemic. To help expedite this process, President Wells created a Health & Safety Task Force comprised of delegates and alternates who assist in these important assessments.

They are an important tool in the union’s arsenal to fight back against this virus and ensure agency compliance regarding local, state, federal, and CDC mandates.

We totally understand your fears and concerns and uncertainty. Your union will continue to represent you on every front and fight on your behalf. In addition, we understand that there’s a lot of misplaced anger towards the union(s) because of these mandates and the rapid changes put in motion by the mayor and other entities.

I’ll leave you with this thought. View your union as firefighters responding to a huge fire that someone else started. We are rushing as fast as we can to the scene to fight the fire and ultimately put it out. We will continue to fight and extinguish all theoretical fires on your behalf.