October 30, 2015
By Tara Jessup
New York NY – A Government Leadership forum on October 27th discussed the future of organized labor. Participants included Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council; Gregory Floyd, president of Local 237 Teamsters; Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers; and Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association.
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP sponsored the event.Labor unions have improved the quality of life in this country for all workers and have been instrumental for the development of a middle class. With large numbers of union members in New York State, organized labor plays a critical role in local communities throughout the state. The role of organized labor is particularly significant in New York City where one in four workers is a union member.Harry Nespoli described the difference between support for unions in New York and nationally.
"It is a disgrace what the rest of the nation has done to the middle class by attacking unions. Union workers' rewards come at the end of careers. We take lower pay to receive our pensions and benefits. By attacking these concepts, the middle class is diminished and the economy is ultimately hurt."Floyd added, "Without pensions and healthcare benefits it is harder to recruit city workers. We do not have glamourous jobs, we live paycheck to paycheck, and we need affordable housing. At the end all we have is our pensions and our healthcare.
Without these things, it is impossible to exist in New York City.""Labor unions in New York started the conversations that are now being discussed on a national level," said Mulgrew. "In New York, union leaders rise above politics to see the bigger agenda. We are in constant communication and have formed coalitions all over the city to support each other. It is powerful to have unions standing next to community groups.""Fifty-nine percent of New Yorkers don't have benefits," said Vincent Alvarez. "But after 40 years of attacks on unions people are realizing that unions are fighting for the middle class. People are finally recognizing this and union support is higher than ever."