The union representing more than 350 New York City Council assistants has been formally endorsed by the city, paving the way for the Legislative Employees Association, now the nation’s largest legislative staff union, to bargain collectively with the municipal Council. It is the culmination of an almost two-year public process that has been delayed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s about pay equity, consistent standards, fair grievance procedures. And it’s really about raising the professional standards of city council so that we can do the best we can for the people of New York, ”said Daniel Kroop, FTA Central Committee member and senior legislative finance analyst. for the city council. . “We are really excited to take it to the next level, now that the long struggle for recognition is over. We have been victorious. It is a true testament to the strength of the staff of the city council.
Discussions about organizing have spread among city council staff for over a decade, but the recent push became public in November 2019 when staff members, who work for individual council members rather than the council in general, promoted analysis of their low wages and long hours. They then launched a card campaign, and after securing a majority of support, called on City Council Chairman Corey Johnson to voluntarily recognize the union in January 2020. Johnson publicly supported the effort, but legal issues and the coronavirus pandemic have slowed the process. When the union seemed close to formal recognition Last summer, the ALE had to launch a second union card check, as previously signed union recognition cards expired after seven months. In December, the the unionization effort has been approved to represent 23 financial analysts who work in the central staff of the Council, but the much greater effort to organize member staff has continued. In April 2021, the The advice passed quietly a resolution this would allow the Chairman of the Board to bargain collectively with the staff of the other 50 individual members. And on August 13, the New York City Collective Bargaining Office officially certified the FTA’s petition for voluntary recognition of assistant council member representation, exploding the union’s size to nearly 400 members.
ALE has shared the news exclusively with City & State and plans to hold a rally and press conference to celebrate the recognition Thursday at 11 a.m. in City Hall grounds, ahead of the only declared council meeting for the August.
“” This is the historic moment. Because after many years of efforts to organize staff in city council, council members’ assistants join people like me in the council finance division as FTA members, ”said said Kroop. “With 377 people currently in positions represented by the FTA, we are now the largest union of legislative staff in the United States. “
There has been a growing organizing movement among elected officials, both locally and across the country. Workers at the New York City Public Advocate office formed a union and were recognized by the city earlier this year. Oregon State Legislative Employees also unionized this year.
The FTA is now considering negotiating a contract with Johnson. Previously, board members had broad discretion over the hiring, pay and layoff hours of their individual staff – things the union now wants to standardize. “Pay change, dismissal, schedule change and retaliation for any complaint – these are the big things that are covered,” said Kana Ervin, senior committee member and deputy chief of staff to board member Margaret Chin. “I have seen deputy board members unfairly kicked out – hardworking and talented people – simply because of a management complaint,” she said.
A spokesperson for the president of the city council declined to comment on the development.
The union also wants a seat at the table as the council hopes to bring staff back to downtown offices. Some council employees received an email from the speaker’s office on Friday outlining the transition from remote working, a day after City & State reported staff complaints about a lack of communication on the matter. “We are certified,” Ervin said. “We absolutely demand that we be included in any reopening process. This is something that should have happened a long time ago.
Internally, the ALE plans to dissolve the ten-member central committee that led the organizing process after electing a board of directors, and adopting a constitution. The central committee also hopes to continue expanding the union to include more central staff, such as those working in the land use division.
The ALE is an independent union and is not affiliated with any existing municipal union, such as DC 37, which represents many other municipal workers. Kroop explained that there were legal issues regarding potential conflicts of interest that could arise if they were part of a union that made political donations to candidates at the same time those candidates were managing union members. Unlike most of the city’s unions, the FTA did not get involved in the 2021 Democratic primary elections. But Kroop kept the door open to a future political organization, saying the union pledged to respect the principles of anti-harassment and anti-discrimination, and the union “will see over time how this is expressed”.
Johnson, with whom ALE plans to negotiate, is on a limited term at the end of 2021. Will ALE play a role in the next speaker race, or even support a candidate? No plan at this time, Kroop said. “No, we haven’t had a discussion about it.”