New York, NY- District Council 37, the city’s largest public employee union, scored a major organizing victory on Wednesday, March 10, 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 vote was tabulated by the National Labor Relations Board at their Lower Manhattan offices on March 10.
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’s NYC Clerical-Administrative Employees 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 years or more. They lacked job security, affordable health care coverage and had 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 AFIS worker 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,” Roberts added.