After nearly two years of bargaining, the union of New York City Council staffers rallied on the steps of City Hall in hopes of finalizing its first contract this week.
The union, the Association of Legislative Employees, will return to the bargaining table with Council management Wednesday in what they expect could be the last round of talks. The union said that at his point, most of their negotiation points have been settled. The union’s tentative contract would end at-will employment and poverty wages, ALE’s President Daniel Kroop said, and they’re just hoping to clinch several additional demands.
The tentative agreement would stop workers from being fired on the spot without “just cause,” create a grievance procedure through an independent arbitrator, establish overtime pay, set a minimum starting salary for aides and, crucially, raise Council staffers’ wages over 16 percent over the course of a five-and-a-half-year deal.
“There’s still people languishing here at $35,000 a year, which is completely unacceptable,” said Kroop. “The staff union is calling on the city council, not just to talk the talk about workers’ rights, but to walk the walk. And that’s why we’re out here today.”
The minimum starting salary for Councilmember aides would be set at $55,000.
The union’s final push is over the inclusion of chiefs of staff in the contract and the provision of job security or layoff policies for staffers when council members leave office.
Morale was high among the dozens of staffers that came out to rally. Speakers also included City Council allies Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Sandy Nurse and Shahana Hanif and union supporters with Liuna Local 1010, Organization of Staff Analysts, the Civil Service Bar Association and others. Chants of “Who does the scheduling? ALE. Who answers when phones ring? ALE” echoed out from the granite steps.
Among the litany of arguments for a fair contract this week, ALE has stressed that ending the high rate of staff turnover at the Council will be a win not just for the workers but for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who will see better constituent services as a result of it. Beyond the practical benefits, supporters raised the moral importance of paying Council staff equitably.
“We have to live up to what we would need if we were not in these positions from our leaders. And so it’s only the right thing to do that we come to the table, we get you guys a fair contract – get the wages you need,” Nurse said.