New York, NY – Benny Boscio, President of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, is tasked with looking out for the interests of his members, and what a task it is. They patrol the City’s jails, violent, dangerous and even deadly places. Understaffed and unappreciated, Boscio nevertheless navigates through the City bureaucracy to get things done for his approximately 5,900 active members and approximately 11,000 retirees. LaborPress had a chance to find out more about his background, union trajectory, and legislative wins.
LP: What was it like for you growing up in the Bronx?
BB: Growing up in the Marble Hill projects in the Bronx helped prepare me to be a CO. It was a humbling experience. I had a core group of friends and a very supportive family. While my path could have taken a number of different turns, I stayed the straight and narrow and credit my parents for that. My father worked in a factory for 30 years and helped put food on the table. Coming from the projects, I understood that it takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance to improve one’s situation in life and achieve your goals. I was also a DJ in the neighborhood at just 12 years old and enjoyed spinning music for my friends and then at larger events throughout the city as I grew older.
LP: What initially inspired you to become a NYC Correction Officer in 1999?
BB: Prior to becoming a CO, one of my father’s friends and my uncle encouraged me to take the civil service exams. My uncle was a retired NYC Detective. They encouraged me to take the exams for FDNY, NYPD, Corrections, and Sanitation. The DOC called me first and here I am 24 years later. While I was a probationary CO, I got my application packet to be hired by FDNY, but I stayed with corrections. I thought of my young kids at the time and the prospect of running into a burning building and how that would impact my kids.
LP: What inspired you to become a union man and when did that first happen?
BB: My father was a shop steward in the teamsters union growing up and I remember the importance of going to union meetings. When I first took the job as a CO, I wasn’t really thinking of getting involved in the union. But when I was involved in a car accident, the support system provided to me by the union showed me how unions can support their members during difficult times and I wanted to be helpful in those efforts moving forward. I was appointed to be a Delegate in the Bronx Courts in 2002 and then I ran for Delegate in 2008 and won. I then ran for Sergeant at Arms on the Executive Board in 2012 and was elected and then re-elected twice before successfully running for COBA president in 2020.
LP: Previous to becoming President you showed an impressive work ethic as displayed in your mentoring Delegates, management, advocating for CO’s and so much more. What motivated you to work at this high level of commitment?
BB: You never want to see our workforce get taken advantage of and I always wanted to be a voice for the voiceless. I wanted our officers to be treated fairly and that motivated me to be their advocate. I was frustrated by how society perceives Correction Officers and I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure we got recognized and appreciated for the work that we do. I felt like we needed real dedicated leadership that could help our union earn respect and prevent officers from being mistreated.
LP: In your current position as President, what are the challenges you most take to heart?
BB: The overall wellness of Correction Officers and their quality of life are very, very important to me personally. It’s a constant struggle to get the city to understand our severe staffing crisis. I struggle with how much OT our officers work and how much time they spend away from their families, in addition to the frequent levels of violence they’re subjected to on a daily basis. Often times, they go to work not knowing if they’ll return home to their families the same way they left. The fact that the people in our custody, who are accused of committing serious violent offenses, seem to have more rights and protections that my law-abiding, essential first responders, who sacrifice their personal safety daily, is both outrageous and demoralizing.
LP: What are some of the union’s biggest victories during your tenure as President?
BB: Some of our biggest victories in just the two and half years of my presidency have been truly significant for my members. We led the fight to pass legislation on a state-wide level that prohibits any public employer in New York, like the New York City Department of Correction, from taking any disciplinary or retaliatory action against any public employees for taking leave due to COVID-19. Several years ago, under the de Blasio administration, nearly 800 of my members had been unfairly and egregiously disciplined for being out sick because they experienced COVID-19 symptoms and simply followed CDC guidelines to quarantine. This legislation will now provide added employment protections for every single public employee throughout the State of New York.
We also were successful in preventing the de Blasio administration from illegally attempting to privatize hundreds of NYC Correction Officers’ jobs because the city failed to hire Correction Officers for three years and created the staffing crisis we’re still struggling with. We prevailed over the city when they attempted to deny our raises and retro pay which we ultimately won in Arbitration, along with attaining, for the first time ever, a “no layoff clause.” We also provided our active members with the biggest health benefit upgrades in years and delivered on our promise to provide cargo pants and personalized gas masks to every Correction Officer.