New York, NY – Henry A. Garrido is the executive director of District Council 37, New York City’s largest municipal employee union. He was elected to a third term in January 2022.

Since becoming executive director in 2014, Garrido has focused on encouraging greater member participation. Garrido initiated the DC 37 Union Strong organizing campaign that helped boost DC 37 membership to 150,000. The campaign continues to broaden membership outreach and services through one-on-one conversations with members. More than 95 percent of DC 37 locals have 100 percent member participation.

Garrido previously served as the union’s associate director. In that position, he helped establish the Municipal Employees Housing Program, which coordinates grants for first-time homebuyers and provides foreclosure prevention services, financial education, and counseling. He also directed the union’s white paper project that addressed government waste by investigating the privatization of City services and identifying additional revenue sources. Garrido also was involved in an initiative on sustainability and green jobs in New York State.

Garrido is an international vice president of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), co-chair of the Municipal Labor Committee, a trustee on the city’s Workforce Investment Board, and serves on the board of the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS). A native of the Dominican Republic, he is the first Latino to head DC 37 since it was formed in 1944.

LP: What are the jobs of your members?

HG: The union represents 150,000 dedicated public employees in more than 1,000 job titles that range from City actuaries and accountants to watershed maintainers and zookeepers. We are City scientists, engineers and architects, school crossing guards, park rangers and bookkeepers, 311 and 911 operators and dispatchers, FDNY EMS Officers and Paramedics, environmental ecologists, hospital aides, laborers and library assistants, COVID tracers, caseworkers, computer techs, museum artists, guards and preparators, parking meter maintainers, traffic workers, tow operators, highway repairers, social workers, psychologists, sludge boat captains, mariners, bridge maintainers, court interpreters, secretaries, park attendants, debris removers and other titles.

DC 37 members work in more than 140 New York City agencies, including public schools, libraries, city museums, and cultural institutions, the NYC Health + Hospitals system, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the police and fire departments, nonprofit and private sector home care, and daycare centers, among others. We also represent more than 89,000 retired city workers.

LP: What were the biggest challenges for your union during the height of the pandemic and what continues to be a challenge?

HG: New York City was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In the first two months after the statewide shutdown, 20,000 New Yorkers died from COVID. Our members rose to meet the unprecedented challenges the pandemic presented and bravely faced them head-on. The union’s primary concerns are keeping our members and New Yorkers safe while providing vital services that are essential to the function of the City.

Mayor de Blasio mandated in-person work for our members, making them essential workers on the front of the crisis. DC 37 members delivered a wide range of essential services and helped residents during the darkest days and months of the pandemic. They did an incredible job!

The outstanding everyday heroes of DC 37 are often overlooked or taken for granted. The work our members accomplished during the pandemic is undeniable and it continues. This includes 311 and 911 operators, who answered thousands of emergency calls a day. Public hospital workers at 11 NYC Health + Hospitals facilities, nursing homes, and clinics cared for COVID patients and kept the facilities sanitized; the respiratory therapists intubated patients; the public health nurses administered vaccines. FDNY EMS members rushed sick New Yorkers to city hospitals and responded to other emergencies. In March and April 2020, the morgues were so inundated, corpses had to be stored in refrigeration trailers outside hospitals. Our members faced gruesome and shocking circumstances in the line of duty—and they continue to show up for their city.

DC 37 also represents the Parks workers who keep public parks, greenspaces, and trails clean and safe for everyone and their pets. Fire Safety Inspectors helped the City reopen scores of skyscrapers and office towers safely. Contact tracers made home visits to track the spread of COVID-19. Although there was a nationwide lifeguard shortage, our City Lifeguards and their supervisors worked to keep public pools and beaches open and safe. In fact, they have a nine-year record of no drownings while lifeguards are on duty.

Our members are caseworkers who made sure welfare and other safety-net services are available for people in need. They are paraprofessionals and computer techs who keep school kids connected to learning remotely. They are school kitchen helpers who feed the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren. Our private sector homecare, healthcare, and daycare essential workers attend to the needs of some of New York’s most vulnerable populations through contracts with the city and state, and yet these human services professionals are among the lowest-paid.

These members are some of the heroes I admire for working tirelessly through the pandemic to protect 8 million New York City residents. The list is endless— DC 37 members went above and beyond for our City. They never tired out or gave up, and they continue to show up to do their jobs. We are here and we are stronger for their efforts.

LP: What is your strategy to continue moving forward in ’23 and ’24?

HG: The past two years brought us to this moment, where our collective power is more critical than ever in shaping the future of New York’s working people. Despite their dedication and commitment to serving the public, our members have been working without a contract for more than a year. We’re fighting for a new contract with the City of New York, and we won’t stop until we’ve secured a fair economic agreement that recognizes the sacrifices DC 37 members have made throughout the pandemic.

We continue to press for pay equity and job security for our members, and protect premium-free healthcare for city workers and retirees. We advocated for and won a state-funded Health Care Worker Bonus program for our members who worked through the pandemic and are pressing the governor to expand that program to include more titles.

Our headquarters on 125 Barclay is being fully renovated to become a LEED Gold and WELL Building-certified workplace. Once construction is complete, the building will consolidate DC 37 operations and provide meeting and events space our locals can utilize for their members.

Henry Garrido, Executive Director District Council 37


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