June 10, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Last fall, Local 372 President Shaun Francois I and Executive Vice-President Donald Nesbit visited P.S. 81 Parent Coordinator Judith Daniels in the last place they ever wanted to see a member of their union — stretched out in a hospital bed after being shot four times while leaving her job in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“My union was with me one-hundred percent,” Daniels told neighborhood residents at a Dekalb Avenue anti-gun violence rally held on June 9.
The horrific shots that erupted just a block away at the corner of Pulaski Street and Stuyvesant Avenue back in October, struck Daniels in both her legs, and put her in a wheelchair for more than three months.
Two other bystanders were also injured in the shooting. A suspect was later arrested and charged with three counts of attempted murder and assault.
“I’m still having challenges with my right leg, but I’m standing,” the 62-year-old Daniels told LaborPress.
Incredibly, Daniels, an 11-year veteran of the NYC schools system, fought back after the shooting and returned to work in March — and has even gone on to earn a master’s degree.
“I returned [to work] March 2, and since then, I’ve been on the move,” said Daniels, 62. “My desire now is to bring this community together which has accepted gun violence for far too long. This is just the beginning.”
There have been 15 shooting incidents year to date within the confines of the 81st Police Precinct. Gunfire in this part of Brooklyn have become so prevalent that many neighborhood residents have built up a kind of psychological defense that has rendered the unacceptable commonplace.
“I grew up not too far from here in Bushwhick,” Nesbit said this week. “My son still lives here. About a month ago, I asked him what do you do when someone is shooting? He said to me, ‘Dad, I duck, and then after they finish shooting, I continue to play.’ This reality has to stop. Kids should not think of this as a normal routine.”
Francois thanked Daniels for her courage in both returning to work, and helping to lead the charge against continued gun violence.
“We need to put stability back in the workforce so we can have what we need to have in order to bring back quality of life to our neighborhoods,” the Local 372 leader said.
In Francois’ view, organized labor has a vital role to play in cultivating neighborhood strength and unity in the face of terrible gun violence.
“There was a time, years ago, when the village raised the child,” Francois told LaborPress. “Everybody in the neighborhood raised the child. It may not have been your child, but that didn’t mean we didn’t all take part in the growing and raising of that child. We need those ethics back.”