November 29, 2016
By Steven Wishnia
Victoria Mitchell was elected executive director of District Council 1707 in May 2014. She was the first rank-and-file member to lead the 20,000-member union since its first local was formed in 1932.
The union, affiliated with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, now comprises six locals, representing workers in day-care programs, Head Start, education, home health care, social-service agencies, and nonprofit membership and fundraising organizations.
Born in Jamaica, Mitchell joined the union’s Local 107 when she began working at ORT America, a Jewish humanitarian organization that was one of the first shops organized by the union. She rose quickly both on the job and in the union, becoming shop steward and then chapter chair, while also earning a promotion to become ORT’s development administration manager. She later was elected president of Local 107, representing workers at fundraising organizations, and began serving on DC 1707’s executive board in 1989. She is also a vice president of AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, and the New York City Central Labor Council.
Mitchell says her top priorities for DC 1707 are growing its membership, negotiating fair and equitable contracts that directly address members’ needs, and ensuring that their rights and benefits are honored. In September, Local 205, which represents more than 3,000 workers in privately run, city-funded day-care programs, ratified a contract that gave them their first pay increases in almost 10 years and enabled part-time workers to get health benefits. She hopes to make similar gains for the Head Start workers in Local 95 next.
As director of DC 1707, she has expanded communications with members by using both traditional methods and digital and social media. This, she says, has “exponentially” increased participation in union activities such as organizing, contract negotiations, and trainings have increased, as well as helping to get more young people involved with union activities.
She credits her success and commitment to her parents and family, who she says instilled in her a rigorous work ethic and a belief in the importance of service.