May 5, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Just as they did throughout the world on May Day, organized labor here rallied for better wages and immigration rights. Two of the city’s leading labor leaders said it was critical for their members to participate on May Day.
In the accompanying video, we interviewed Arthur Cheliotes, president of the Communication Workers of America Local 1180, which represents city employees. Now with the 2016 presidential election on everyone’s radar as more than 20 Republican candidates have announced their candidacy, and with Scott Walker reportedly saying that he would fight organized labor should he win the 2016 election, Cheliotes said there’s a lot at stake.
“We’re going to need to change the course of this country. That’s going to take long-term commitments in the upcoming election and the elections to follow because it’s going to be a generational fight and we’re going to need to push to make sure that our children and our children’s children have the right to live with dignity, justice and respect,” said Cheliotes.
Shaun Francois was elected president of District Council 37’s Local 372 in the fall, which represents the city’s Department of Education school crossing guards and cafeteria workers. Last month he spoke at a press conference at City Hall calling on the city to offer more robust compensation packages for school crossing guards in order to fill a jobs vacancy of about 200 school crossing guards. He noted in the interview that school crossing guards just received a wage increase to $11.50 per hour, but it’s still not enough for doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the city.
“We got a little bit of a raise, but it’s not enough. We’re calling for $15 an hour at a minimum. If we can get that amount, then we can start having a dialogue. I represent some of the lowest-paid city employees. Getting $15 an hour isn’t a want, it’s a need,” said Francois.
Francois said DOE school lunch employees and crossing guards have come a long way—back in 1940 there was no union and they were earning only 50 cents an hour—but they still have some ways to go.