Public Employee Press
Wave Hill workers vote to join District Council
Celebrating DC 37s March 1 organizing victory at
Wave Hill, from left: attorney Steven Sykes, Gardeners Susannah
Strazzera, José Concepción, Gelene Scarborough and
Kevin Bost, and union organizer Moira Dolan.
By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Workers at the 28-acre Wave Hill garden and cultural center in the Bronx
voted overwhelmingly to join DC 37.
In a National Labor Relations Board election held March 1, the full-time
workers voted 9-5 for DC 37, becoming the unions newest unit.
When the vote was announced, Gardener Marie Kearns hugged organizer Moira
Dolan of the
DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept.
We have been working so hard at this for a long time. I couldnt
be happier, Ms. Kearns said.
The victory was especially sweet for Gardener José Concepción,
a 29-year veteran employee who participated in an organizing effort in
the 1980s in which the union lost by one vote.
The spark for the victorious organizing drive occurred last year, when
after years of salary freezes, management gave some employees merit raises.
Despite good work reviews, Concepción was the only gardener denied
a raise. His co-workers shared his outrage, and the gardeners found that
the inequitable pay policy existed throughout Wave Hill.
Gardener Kevin Bost, 16 years at Wave Hill, said he felt a sense of injustice
when he learned that he earned more than Concepción. It seems
people who have been here a while and dont have many years left
are being capped, he said.
Most workers said they needed the union to increase their clout on the
job. At the city-supported institution, workers have health coverage and
a pension, like DC 37 workers at other cultural sites. But they do not
have the same grievance and job security protections, and they arent
covered by DC 37s economic agreements.
Workers complained that they had virtually no contact with management
until the administration learned about their interest in the union and
tried to get them to vote against DC 37 in group and one-on-one meetings.
In interviews, employees expressed pride in their work and a deep commitment
to the institution. But they said they were bitter about workplace relations,
which deteriorated during the organizing drive. Still, they said they
hope to work constructively with management.
There have been a few issues in the past and there was no one here
to represent us. This was long overdue, said Conference Coordinator
Linda Allen. The 16-year Wave Hill worker wore a DC 37 pin on the day
of the vote.
Over the years, management has disrespected us. We would like much
better relations with them to be able to do better work for the institution,
Workers cheer union victory
After the vote, the workers cheered and hugged each other, Dolan and staff
attorney Steven Sykes. Then they phoned Membership Manager Alice Longworth,
one of the key organizers, who was hospitalized on the eve of the vote.
Building on the momentum of the victory, Dolan then polled the workers
for the most convenient dates to ask management to begin discussions on
Besides the gardeners and administrative workers, the unit will represent
clerical and maintenance workers at the bargaining table. Were
happy to welcome these new members to the union, said Sherwyn Britton,
director of the White Collar Division. The Wave Hill group will likely
be included within one of the union locals that represent workers at cultural
institutions, she said.
I want fairness, Concepción said, reflecting on the
organizing victory. I told them we are not here to cut the hand
that feeds us, he said. We just want to negotiate in good
faith and be respected. Basically, I love this place.