Reprinted from 37 Public Employee Press (May 2014)
Union Welcomes Police Civilians
New workers join Local 1549 after learning about the union’s array of benefits.
Local 1549 and DC 37 welcomed 75 newly hired Police Communications Technicians into the union family on April 11.
The day after the graduation ceremony that capped their eight-week training at the New York Police Dept., the union held an orientation session for the PCTs – the first time the union hosted the meeting at DC 37 rather than at the NYPD.
During the orientation, almost all the workers signed green DC 37 membership cards. As members, they are entitled to vote on contracts and elect their union leaders.
The workers also had the opportunity to open accounts at the Municipal Credit Union and get advice about their pensions and other benefits. Many decided to join PEOPLE, the political action fund of DC 37’s national union.
“This is an excellent job,” said John Armstrong, chair of the Local 1549 Police Communications Technicians and Supervising PCTs Chapter. “You can make it whatever you want it to be.”
“You are the ones on the frontline, the ones who make sure people get the service out there,” said Eddie Rodriguez, president of DC 37 and of Clerical- Administrative Local 1549.
He informed the new workers the union pushed for the new positions in a campaign that included negotiations with the NYPD, lobbying at the City Council and media outreach. The media campaign highlighted how understaffing, excessive overtime and the resulting burnout of operators in the 911 operation threatened public safety.
The workers at the orientation were the second wave of 150 new positions that the department agreed to fund.
Alma Roper, the local’s executive vice president, who worked as an operator for more than two decades, advised the workers to resist carrying home the stress of their jobs.
“You are going to hear horrific things,” she said. “Don’t bring it home.”
Ready to face tragedies
The four-hour orientation provided the workers with a comprehensive overview of the array of services offered by the union.
Top DC 37 officials described the union’s political action, communications, safety and health, collective bargaining and legal work. They also described the union’s welfare-fund coverage, which includes prescription drugs, podiatry, vision care, legal services and education benefits.
Several PCTs expressed enthusiasm about their new jobs, and they said they were happy to learn about their union benefits and protections.
“I wasn’t aware that the services were so extensive,” Casey Riley said.
Ali Quhshi, 22, who is finishing up his associate’s degree at La Guardia College, said he was relieved to have a full-time job with good benefits after years of unemployment. “You hear about the horrors of the job, but we had good training and I am ready to accept it,” he said.
Rhonda Spaulding and Diana Marenfeld, the grievance reps assigned to the Police Dept., joined Clerical-Administrative Division Assistant Director Dorothy Lorenzo and Natasha Isma, chair of Local 1549’s Next Wave Committee in giving welcoming remarks.
“We hope you will get involved,” said Kenneth Mulligan, the assistant division director assigned to the NYPD. “We want you to come back to the House of Labor.”
— Gregory N. Heires