Public Employee Press
DC 37 organizing victory
MetroPlus workers at HHC vote for Local 1549
DC 37 Executive
Director Lillian Roberts, with DC 37 Clerical-Administrative Division Assistant
Director Renee Gainer, organizing drive coordinator, greets MetroPlus organizers
Bridgette Ward, left, and Ayanna Gabriel.
President Eddie Rodriguez, at head of table, discusses the power of unionism with
MetroPlus workers at DC 37 headquarters in January. MetroPlus workers shared their
workplace concerns with union officials.
GREGORY N. HEIRES
Workers at the health maintenance organization
of the Health and Hospitals Corp. voted to join DC 37, capping a two-year organizing
drive by Local 1549 and DC 37.
The city Office of Collective Bargaining
announced Feb. 2 that MetroPlus employees chose DC 37 over the Organization of
Staff Analysts by a 149 to 64 vote.
As a result of the vote, the more
than 300 Enrollment Sales Representatives and Assistant ESRs at MetroPlus will
be represented by Clerical-Administrative Local 1549, the second-largest union
local in DC 37 with nearly 18,000 members.
This organizing drive
was very important to us, said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts.
When they voted for DC 37, the MetroPlus workers took an important first
step in winning better health coverage, good benefits and better pay for the valuable
services they provide.
We are pleased to welcome our new
MetroPlus members, said Eddie Rodriguez, president of Local 1549. Local
1549 has a proven record of delivering for its members. We look forward to providing
MetroPlus workers with job security, a good contract and a voice at work through
The unions newest members handle applications of people, primarily Medicaid
recipients, who use the HMO of the citys huge hospital system.
Apart from the contract bargaining, job security and on-the-job protections offered
by the union, MetroPlus workers told PEP they were attracted to DC 37 and Local
1549 because of the prescription drug and other benefits, that they lack. These
include disability, dental, optical, tuition reimbursement, scholarship, reimbursement
of civil service fees, podiatry, education and legal benefits. MetroPlus workers
complained that they had to fork out hefty sums for a prescription drug rider
and medication purchases, while the union drug benefit has modest co-pays.
the union, we will have respect on the job and a guarantee of protection of our
I'm a single mother
with three girls. By speaking out for the union, I am speaking about what's good
for my family.
With a union, you have backup, said
Bridgette Ward, explaining her desire to be represented by a union. You
dont have to worry that youre out there on a limb. If you have a problem,
you have someone to go to.
I dont like seeing favoritism
on the job, said Ayanna Gabriel, who emerged as an outspoken advocate
for DC 37 during the organizing drive. The union will help by giving people
an opportunity to advance. It promotes fairness on the job.
DC 37 is a big union and we know that
it will help resolve problems and represent and help all of the members,
Elizabeth Alonzo said in Spanish. Alonzo said that although she had never had
a disciplinary problem with a manager, she believed workers clearly need the institutional
support of a union to deal with workplace disputes. Youre secure and
you know they cant easily dismiss you, she said.
mentioning job security and workplace protections, Alonzo also said she was particularly
attracted to DC 37s one-year-old affordable housing program, which has helped
more than 1,000 members get mortgages for homes.
Renee Gainer, an assistant
director of the unions Clerical-Administrative Division, coordinated the
organizing effort with the support of Field Operations Director Barbara Ingram-Edmonds,
Clerical-Administrative Director Ronnie Harris and Connie Derr and Jim Cullen
of DC 37s parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees. As an HHC employee, Local 1549 2nd Vice President Ralph Palladino played
a key role in helping the union with workplace research and contacts.
This was a huge victory, especially because we had never broken into an
HMO before, Gainer said. In a sense, its a new frontier for
Our strategic plan worked, Gainer said.
We went after the MetroPlus folks diligently and showed them that they belonged
with us because our members do similar work.
Harris and Gainer
praised the divisions 28 reps for adapting to the challenge and convincing
the MetroPlus workers to become a part of the DC 37 family. Staff from the unions
other five divisions and its funds and departments also contributed.
Over two years, the organizing drive involved researching MetroPluss structure
and mission, identifying on-the-job leaders to convince their co-workers to join
and making home visits, as well as media and publicity work and meetings at union
headquarters and HHC.
I am happy, happy, happy! Gabriel said.
Im happy to be a part of DC 37.