November 21, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
Queens, NY—Daneek Miller is still the president of a transit union but will soon be heading to his seat at the City Council in January. He’s one of 21 new council candidates recently elected by voters. He said some of the issues that’ll be important to him in the Council include supporting new labor contracts for municipal employees and ensuring that black youth in his district have education and job opportunities.
Miller had no intention of running for the seat to represent District 27, which includes the Southeast Queens communities of St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights and Jamaica. He was in the middle of trying to win reelection as president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 when he was asked by Leroy Comrie, the district’s current city council representative, would he consider running for the seat because Comrie is facing term limits.
“I told him that I was humbled, but I was running for reelection. But as soon as the campaign was over, I was asked again and then I discussed the idea with my colleagues and they said it would be good for me to run because the prevailing thought was ‘We really don’t have a voice at City Hall,’” said Miller.
At the end of December last year, he gave it serious thought and decided to run.
By January he was on the campaign trail and wound up running in one of the most crowded races in the city. He won the race with 24.4 percent of the vote. He credits his career in labor for the necessary skills he’ll be relying on during his tenure on the City Council. In addition to leading a 2,400-member ATU local, Miller is also co-chair of the MTA Labor Coalition, which represents about 54,000 workers in 29 bargaining units across the state.
“When you’ve been representing members and being responsible for the lives of men and women and their families, it prepares you for leadership,” said Miller. “I know how to sit down and build the necessary coalitions and do that kind of work that’ll be necessary on the City Council.”
He also credits his labor background catapulting him to victory in a very competitive race where the Queens County Democratic Party endorsed Miller’s opponent, Manuel Caughman.
“Absolutely, it was 1,000 percent that. We have the most highly densely labor district in the city of New York,” Miller said.
Miller will leave his presidency of ATU Local 1056 for the City Council in January where he’ll be focusing on expired labor contracts, education and job opportunities for his constituents. He said many black youth in his district are deprived of opportunities because of non-felony crimes that make it difficult for them to get work.
“There are a lot of young people because of things like stop and frisk that have impediments placed on their records that forbid them from getting jobs,” said Miller.
He noted that in Brooklyn there is programs offered through a community church whereby district attorneys and judges will help young people with misdemeanors expunge their records. But Queens has refused to offer this type of help yet and he hopes to change that in the City Council.
“I fought hard to make sure these kids have opportunities. We want to reduce these impediments that holds them back,” Miller said.
Another important issue is the co-location of charter schools in public schools, which he says he and the community are opposed to.
“In my district the co-location of schools is just a super issue that impacts all of the children throughout the city. Here in Southeast Queens, five schools were co-located at the start of the new school year such as Campus Magnet High School and August Martin High School, ” Miller said. “This is going to be a major issue because it undermines not just the education of our children but also undermines our teachers and administrators.”
As he transitions from labor president to City Council representative for District 27, Miller said he’s looking forward to working with a changing City Council that is being characterized as the most progressive in 50 years and a new mayor, Bill de Blasio.
“Bill gets it. He’s been on the front lines. He knows the issues and hits the ground running as it pertains to working people. I’m looking forward to it.”
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