Between the Wisconsin labor movement's fight to retain bargaining rights, and Mayor Bloomberg's demand for sweeping reforms to union pensions, local unions are watching closely the potential development of an anti-labor movement that could negatively impact communities with a heavy labor workforce, including the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“As a resident of Bed-Stuy, I can say that it's a neighborhood which needs government support and the creation of jobs just to let people live comfortably,” said , 28, a forensic scientist from Bedford-Stuyvesant and president-elect of chapter 39 within Local 375.
“It’s residents in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy that will typically work for New York City in civil service jobs where you can make a moderate salary.”
Chapter 39 is one of 43 chapters that falls under Local 375, a collection of local unions that consists of approximately 7,000 people. Local 375 is part of DC 37, which is the largest municipal public employee union in the country.
McCasland said that in addition to Bay Ridge and Astoria, Bed-Stuy has among the highest percentage of unionized residents in the city. His primary goal as president-elect of chapter 39 is to promote education of labor unions at the grassroots level.
“The biggest problem is that a lot of folks think city workers are spoiled and entitled people who get away with murder, which just isn’t true,” said McCasland. “There are a few bad apples you’ll see on the news, but the vast majority of city workers are hard working people who don’t get paid much. The average pension is around $17,000.”
New York City Comptroller John Liu published a report on March 9, comparing the salaries of those in the public sector versus the private sector. The report confirms McCasland’s arguments, stating city workers are paid 17 percent less on average than those who work in the private, for-profit sector.
Additionally, 49 percent of the City’s labor force has a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 41 percent of the private workforce.
“I work for the office of the Chief Medical Examiner and virtually everyone I work with has a master’s degree. Yet, we don’t live lavish lifestyles, especially when you compared what people in our profession get paid in the private sector,” said McCasland.
McCasland said he believes that without the support of the local elected officials for the labor movement, the job market in the public sector will suffer greatly throughout the city, causing a further decline in the quality of life for the city's working-class residents.
“These jobs will be less desirable and there will be less of them,” said McCasland. “There’s a pride people who live in Bed-Stuy take in helping those behind them, so taking the unions away will make people feel like it’s not possible to work for the city and make a decent living.”