President Joseph A. Colangelo
Election Day is behind us, and we hope that means partisan politics will be put on the back burner, at least for now. If we are to proceed and succeed as a state and a country, then our elected officials must learn how to work together in the best interest of all those they represent.
This was by far one of the most interesting midterm elections. Union members across the nation turned out in droves to vote for pro-labor candidates. In New York, candidates who have shown their support for the labor movement overwhelmingly won seats in Congress, statewide, and in the state Legislature. As of the last count I read, almost 750 union members were elected to public office. In the not-too-distant past, that would have been unheard of. To say that labor made unprecedented gains this November would be an understatement. In fact, even public worker enemy #1 lost his election. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker narrowly lost the governor’s race by 49.6 percent to 48.4 percent — just 1.2 percent. If candidates in Wisconsin lose by less than 1 percent, they can ask for a recount — but Walker lost by 1.2 percent. That threshold is due to a law Walker himself signed after President Trump was elected.
They say all politics is local but that is only partially true. Just look at Scott Walker. He single-handedly broke the unions in his state, and that anti-union sentiment then spread across the country. In a “what-goes-around-comes-around” moment, it was the labor movement that brought him down, along with anti-union Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. It would be hard to understate the damage to workers wrought by Scott Walker, elected during the Tea Party wave of 2010, and Bruce Rauner, elected in 2014. Walker wasted no time taking aim at organized labor, and labor took no time in paying him back.
In New York State, however, politics is very local. Issues of importance to New York City residents do not resonate with upstate New Yorkers. What’s important in Oceanside does not matter in Oswego. We are a diverse and divided state, as is our country. That’s why it’s so important for our elected officials on both sides of the aisle to work together. E pluribus Unum — Latin for “Out of many, one” is the 13-letter traditional motto of the United States and alludes to the union between the states and the federal government. It can, however, also apply to politics across the board. United we stand; divided we fall.
The same can be said for our own membership; what is important to one group may not be as important to another. With our next round of contract negotiations coming up, this is something we all must keep in mind. We have received a date to begin bargaining on the Auto Mechanic and Auto Service Worker contracts and we should have dates on the others soon.
DC37, the New York City’s largest municipal union, finalized its contract this summer, and most recently, the United Federation of Teachers also ratified a contract and received an 87% membership approval. With two of the largest New York City unions finished, smaller unions can now begin. As you know from past years, the pattern has been set, and it’s something that other unions now need to work within. Local 246 negotiates nine separate contracts covering 24 different titles, so negotiations for us are not so simple. Each title has different needs and requests that we must pay attention to and negotiate separately. We now have a negotiating committee to start preparation for our negotiations.
We currently face a shortage of Auto Mechanics across all City agencies. The Office of Fleet Administration that controls all agency staffing requests has tried to impose a ratio of Mechanics to Auto Service Workers as a means to reduce the City’s budget shortfall. Local 246 is opposed to this reduction on many different levels, foremost being the impact this policy will have on the ability of agencies to maintain an acceptable and reasonable out-of-service percentage. This unrealistic ratio is already severely impacting the Sanitation Department, which has no option other than to increase overtime and add additional weekend shifts to try and repair its fleet.
If the Sanitation Department lacks the equipment to pick up garbage and plow the streets in a snow storm, all the residents of New York City will suffer. We have requested meetings with City Hall to address our concerns. The fact that decisions made by the Office Fleet Administration which then takes no accountability on the impact to agency operations when the agency vehicle out of service rates sky rocket is unacceptable. Not to mention the entire additional work load that is being placed on our members with job reporting and parts ordering which is taking away critical time needed to focus on our core responsibility to fix and maintain equipment.
The next thing I want to talk about is the retiring of James Grillo, our union Vice President. During the past few months, Jimmy has been dealing with a health problem that required him to submit his retirement application. I’ve known Jimmy for close to 30 years, from his time as a Shop Steward through his terms as Union Trustee, then Recording Secretary, and eventually Vice President. Jim has dedicated his entire career to the members of this union; his commitment, stamina, and unrelenting defense of our members has never been in question. I truly came to admire him throughout the many years I’ve worked with him. He has always put the needs of the members before his own. We on the Executive Board wish him well and all the best in his retirement. We also look forward to his visits at the union meetings.
The Executive Board has approved the nomination of Anthony Reyes as Vice President to fill the remainder of Jim’s term. The Board also approved Jason Vetter as Recording Secretary, and Jeff Blond to the position of Union Trustee. We congratulate everyone and know they will serve the union and our membership well in these new positions. All our members can feel confident in knowing these officers are dedicated to the protection and defense of our union brothers and sisters.
On behalf of the entire Executive Board, I wish you and your families the happiest of holidays and a great New Year.