Art by Emily Elliott
New York City Council staffers are uniting to “fix their own house” by beginning the process of unionizing amid reports of exploitative workplace conditions and widespread pay disparities. This week, we checked in with leaders Zara Nasir, Chloë Rivera, and Leah Hebert on what’s going on at the NYCC and asked how we can support them and the public servants working tirelessly behind the scenes. Here's what we learned...
In 2016, our Council Members voted to give themselves a $36K raise, even though some of their staffers are making near minimum wage. That raise is more than some of those staffers will make in a year. And while Council Speaker Corey Johnson has 2x increased operating funding for Council Members, staff salaries have remained stagnant—suggesting some lawmakers are hiring more employees at lower wages ... or redecorating their offices. Meanwhile, more than 130 current and former NYCC staffers signed an open letter demanding reforms to improve workplace conditions and the expulsion of serial workplace harasser Andy King.
While other legislative bodies have talked about unionizing, very few have actually done it (the closest parallel is Bernie Sanders’ prez campaign staff ratifying a union contract earlier this year). So yeah, this is unprecedented. Current labor law requires 51% of employees to sign union cards to form a union—in this case, a minimum of 306 people. If successful, not only will these staffers have the bargaining protection to demand pay equity, they’ll also be able to set forth new workplace protections against abusers like Andy King.
What NYCC staffers do over the next year will set a tone for public servants across the nation. How can you have their backs?
—Share your support on Twitter! Tag @NYCCouncilUnion and @HarassFreeNYCC, and use hashtags #StandWithStaff and #ExpelKing.
—Ask your organization to sign a letter in support by filling out this form. The Broad Room has already signed!
—Current or former staffer? Sign up for emails on the unionizing campaign and sign the open letter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to add your name.