April 2, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY - School crossing guards throughout the city are cheering a modest pay raise today, but the union representing them is hardly pausing to celebrate, as it instead pushes ahead with a fiery campaign to provide members with a lot more than a $1.62 an hour salary boost.
On Tuesday night, Local 372 President Shaun D. Francios, I informed members gathered at 125 Barclay Street, that a deal with the city to raise the salary floor for school crossing guards from $9.88 an hour to $11.50 an hour, had, indeed, been reached. But less than a year into his first three-year term as president, Francios and the rest of the DC37 leadership team emphasized that the real goal is to secure a $15 minimum wage for members, in addition to year-round medical coverage, elimination of the cap on work hours, and an end to pay inequity between the sexes.
“This is just the beginning,” Francios said. “We are not quite there yet. But we will get what we need.”
School crossing guards are limited to how many hours they can work each day, and are not extended medical coverage for the two months out of the year when school is out. Supporters also say that there aren’t enough of them employed to keep all of New York City’s school kids safe.
According to DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, the union is actually “very close” to striking a deal with the city to begin covering the healthcare costs of members during the summer months.
“Too many of our brothers and sisters have to make a choice whether they pay their rent or they pay their health insurance,” Garrido said.
At the same time, the growing campaign to lift the minimum wage for low-wage workers to a more realistic $15 an hour is building momentum not only here in New York City, but across the rest of the country as well.
Although firmly behind those efforts, Garrido has called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to now directly address the ongoing issue of pay inequity amongst his own municipal employees, as well as those of fast food workers and others in the private sector.
“Most don’t realize there is a whole set of municipal workers still being paid below the living wage,” Councilman Brad Lander [D-39th District] said. “If we’re out there fighting for fast food workers, getting arrested for car wash workers, and if we’re out there fighting for all the other workers fighting wage theft and discrimination, we should make sure that everybody working for the City of New York is paid a living wage.”
Councilman Lander, who was arrested supporting striking car wash workers in Brooklyn last month, is one of many in the city council actively supportive of a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers.
“We need to continue to insist that our school crossing guards deserve respect and dignity in their jobs just like anybody else,” Councilman Daniel Drumm [D-25th District] said. “This accomplishment getting to $11.50 is great, but more work needs to be done.”
Councilman I. Daneek Miller [D-27th District], chair of the Civil Service & Labor Committee, said it is “ridiculous” to talk about raising the wage anywhere in the city “if it’s not happening at home first.”
Meanwhile, women currenlty working in city government reportedly only earn 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.
“We will not stop until every woman makes 100 percent of what they work for,” Gariddo said.
Following this week's victory, Francois is confident that a dialogue with the de Blasio administration about all the work issues impacting his members will increase.
“This [victory] is a little bit of flavor to wake us up,” the Local 372 leader told LaborPress. “We need to shake that tree to let them know we’re here and we mean business.”