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AFIS workers vote "YES" for District Council 37

DC 37/PEP photo by Clarence Elie-Rivera  

District Council 37, ASFCME Organizing Department, NYC Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 Pres. Eddie Rodriguez (third
from left) and other Local 1549 officers.

Nearly 100 finger imaging workers join union ranks

District Council 37 scored a major organizing victory on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 when 98 percent of the Automated Finger Imaging Systems (AFIS) operators at the Human Resources Administration voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the union.

The mail ballot election took place between February 23 through March 9 with the ballots being sent to the homes of AFIS operators employed by Distinctive Personnel, a subcontractor of the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. The vote was tabulated by the National Labor Relations Board at their Lower Manhattan offices on March 10.

DC 37/PEP photo by Gregory N. Heires
Automated Finger Imaging Systems (AFIS) operators Karen Douglas (left) and Ana Anaya.

"We need a union. I have been with the company for seven years, but we don't have sick days. If you are out, you don't get paid. I would like to have vacation, sick days and more money. You are supposed to get a cost-of-living increase, but we haven't gotten one for two years. It's very hard. There are a lot of 'floaters' who don't work 40 hours a week."
— Karen Douglas,
AFIS Operator

"People were afraid to talk about the union. Management prohibited people from talking about the union.”

— Ana Anaya,
AFIS Operator


The newly organized operators - who take finger images and photos of public assistance recipients at 43 locations throughout the five boroughs - work side-by-side with city clerical employees represented by DC 37 NYC Clerical-Administrative Local 1549.

AFIS workers earned on average $8.50 per hour regardless of the number of years of employment with some having been employed for as many as 10 or more. They had no job security, unaffordable health care coverage and few if any other benefits. The workers are predominantly women of color. Many are on public assistance themselves, needing food stamps, Medicaid and other services to augment their low salaries.

According to Anna Anaya, "I'm very excited that we have joined DC 37 and finally will have a voice on the job. We take our work very seriously. And because we consider ourselves professionals we want to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect. Now that we have the union on our side, we know we can look forward to improving our wages and benefits with the help of DC 37."

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts called the results of the organizing drive, "a great moment for exploited and low-paid workers and the labor movement," adding that workers everywhere deserve the right to collective bargaining and a voice in the work place.

"These workers perform an important function and deserve the right to bargain for better pay, job security and affordable health benefits," said Roberts.

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