Meet 2016 NYC Labor Day Parade Chair Henry A. Garrido
2016 NYC Labor Day Parade Chair, DC 37 Executive Director, Henry A. Garrido is the first Latino to head District Council 37, the largest municipal employees union in New York City. A native of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Garrido assumed the position on Dec. 31, 2014.
As executive director, Mr. Garrido, 43, leads a union of 121,000 municipal workers who come from around the world and are employed in 1,000 titles. The union’s members work in mayoral agencies, the public schools, city libraries and cultural institutions, the Health and Hospitals Corp., the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, School Construction Authority, Emergency Medical Services, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the Unified Court System and New York Law School.
In July 2016, Mr. Garrido was also elected an International Vice President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the 1.6-million-strong parent union of DC 37.
Before becoming executive director, Mr. Garrido served for four years as associate director during the administration of longtime DC 37 leader Lillian Roberts, who retired in 2014.
As associate director from 2011 to 2014, Mr. Garrido was involved in DC 37 policy and administration. His responsibilities included testifying at the City Council and State Legislature on union issues, administering the DC 37 field staff and coordinating the union’s white paper project, which addressed city waste by investigating contracting out and identifying revenue sources. He also was involved in an initiative on sustainability and green jobs in New York State.
Mr. Garrido helped establish a housing program for municipal employees, which he administered. The Municipal Employees Housing Program handles over $3 million in grants for first-time homebuyers, foreclosure prevention services and an educational and counseling program. The program also provides a preference for municipal employees in all city- and state-sponsored apartment lotteries.
When Ms. Roberts became executive director in 2002, she soon assigned Garrido to work on the white paper project. The project produced reports on the skyrocketing cost of contracting out; ways to balance the city budget while preserving services; the harmful impact that Health and Hospitals Corp. restructuring would have on public hospitals, and $121 million in savings that could result from keeping work in house and reducing the use of temp workers.
The project included media outreach and political work with the City Council to draw public attention to contracting waste. DC37 also arranged for a hearing at union headquarters before the city’s Congressional Delegation.
Eventually, the city adopted some of the union’s recommendations, including capturing neglected revenue through fees for cell phone antennas and billboards. The budget policy of the current administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio aims to curb wasteful contracting spending.
Perhaps the greatest successes of the white paper project involved exposing the hundreds of millions of dollars of waste in the troubled upgrade of the emergency 911 system and the corrupt CityTime payroll automation project, which came in years late as its costs mushroomed from $73 million to over $700 million. Eight CityTime contractors were convicted of fraud in schemes that included laundering money abroad.
In his final year as associate director, Mr. Garrido helped settle a new 88-month economic agreement that preserved the membership’s premium-free health-care coverage and includes a total wage increase of 10.4 percent. He also implemented a computerized grievance tracking system at the union and led an internal organizing drive to sign up 14,000 dues payers who had not enrolled as members.
Garrido attributes his progressive political outlook to his mother, a garment worker, who used to tell him about the indignities and abuses on the factory floor. The garment workers union gave her protection and a voice, leading Mr. Garrido to understand the importance of the labor movement at a young age.
In 2003, Mr. Garrido finished his college studies at City College of New York, where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree in architecture. But he decided not to pursue a career in architecture because he enjoyed the stability and mission of his union job.
While at DC 37, Mr. Garrido also completed the Harvard Law School’s Trade Union Program, which helps union leaders develop strategies for organizing and responding to employer attacks. The program now uses the DC 37 white paper project as a case study of union work on public policy.
As the leader of the flagship affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Mr. Garrido has assumed the responsibility of heading DC 37 at a time when the labor movement — particularly in the public sector — is under attack around the country. His goals include expanding the membership, strengthening DC 37’s ties to the community, improving services and encouraging members to get more involved in union activities.
“Unions have been reactive and on the defensive for too long,” Mr. Garrido said. “We have to be more aggressive about carrying out our agenda. We need to take advantage of the crisis we face to rebuild the union movement.”
His two children, Christopher and Leslie, are his greatest joy.