2021: A Year-In-Review
As we look back on the past year, we're reflecting on the continuing challenges that the New York City labor movement has faced, but also on the significant ground we’ve gained and the enormous potential ahead of us.
This year, our City began the hard work of emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, though we know we aren’t fully there yet and there is much still to be done. We’ve watched as workers here and across the country rose up to take back their own power, demanding better pay, improved working conditions, and a voice in their workplace. And we’ve seen the power that workers have at the polls as well, with a new pro-labor Presidential administration taking action to address the economic and healthcare crisis and make unprecedented investments in our nation’s workforce, and with working people turning out in force to elect new leaders in NYC, including the first-ever majority female City Council.
In the coming year, we look forward to working with all of our newly elected leaders including Mayor Eric Adams, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Comptroller Brad Lander, and our incoming City Council Speaker, Councilmembers and Borough Presidents to revive hard-hit industries, protect jobs and critical city services, and build a resilient economy that works for all working people.
On behalf of all of us at the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, we extend our deepest appreciation and gratitude for your solidarity and for your partnership, and we wish you and your loved ones a brighter, happier, and healthier 2022.
See below for the 2021 Union Matters Year in Review!
Despite the efforts of those who would use force to defy the will of the American voters, Congress on January 6th certified the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our President and Vice-President. On that same day, working people secured another historic victory, with AFL-CIO endorsed candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff winning their Senate races in Georgia. And NYC union members helped make it happen! In the months before the special election, our affiliate members made more than 10,000 calls to union households in Georgia in addition to heading south to help in person, visiting and handing out PPE/GOTV information, knocking on doors and opening/closing polls in critical districts.
Here at home, the CLC continued to build on our Labor Votes! 2021 citywide election efforts, which began last October with pre-screening workshops and full screening interviews for City Council Candidates. More than 200 candidates vied for endorsements from the CLC, which represents more than one million registered voter members and and their households across New York City. Candidates seeking the endorsement participated in a rigorous process, including a training on the New York City labor movement and the issues important to working people, as well as interviews with panels of affiliate representatives.
By the end of January, we announced our first of several rounds of endorsements for the 2021 NYC primary elections. And in February, we hosted a webinar on Ranked-Choice Voting with Rank the Vote NYC, educating working families on how the new RCV system would work in order to prepare them to make their voices heard at the polls.
We hosted our 2021 NYC CLC Labor and Civil Rights event in March, an annual opportunity to recognize and celebrate the continuing unity and interdependence of the labor and civil rights movements. This year we were honored to be joined by both local and national leadership of the AFL-CIO’s constituency groups, which address the challenges faced by workers from diverse backgrounds. The conversation included discussions of the important roles the groups played in the 2020 fall elections and the runoff election in Georgia, as well as their work to address the challenges we’ve been facing in New York City and across the country—the health and economic crises brought on by the pandemic, and the continuing crisis of racial inequality.
Together with Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) NY Chapter President Steven Moy, CLC President Vincent Alvarez issued a statement in response to racist and xenophobic attacks against people of Asian Pacific heritage across the nation, including the fatal attack on mostly female workers of Asian Pacific descent in Georgia. Read the full statement here.
In March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion bill to help fight the effects of the pandemic, with New York Senator and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leading the effort in the Senate. In addition to direct stimulus payments and other important provisions, the bill included billions in financial assistance to struggling multi-employer pension plans, ensuring that retirees will get the pensions they earned over a lifetime of hard work.
As the month came to a close, working people across our city, state and nation once again remembered and honored the victims of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Members of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition including Workers United, SEIU and the NYC CLC organized a commemoration of the 110th anniversary throughout the day on virtual platforms. The day’s events culminated in a moving streamed program that included music, poetry, and video presentations, and ended with a unique “reading of the names” by 146 essential workers, family members, organizers, actors, artists, writers, labor leaders, teachers, students, and activists from around the world holding the names of the Triangle workers.
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The CLC kicked off the second quarter of 2021 by hosting a Spotlight Series event highlighting women leaders in the labor movement. NYC CLC Secretary-Treasurer and UFT Vice President of Academic High Schools Janella T. Hinds moderated a discussion between women labor leaders, reflecting on the continuing issues of inequality and disproportionate impact that the pandemic has brought to light, as well as next steps in the fight for equity in the aftermath of COVID-19. Panelists shared their own experiences as female leaders, and discussed the issues that women face as a critical part of the modern workforce, and the challenges of navigating a historically male dominated space.
Just ahead of Earth Day, the NYC CLC, Climate Jobs NY, the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council, the United Federation of Teachers, District Council 37, 32BJ SEIU and others launched the Carbon Free and Healthy Schools campaign. This initiative aims to make schools a model for carbon-free buildings by updating antiquated heating and cooling systems, making use of large rooftops to generate solar power, and increasing school buildings’ overall energy efficiency. This program will also create thousands of new jobs and save schools millions of dollars in energy costs. Visit the Carbon Free and Healthy Schools campaign website to learn more.
On April 28, the CLC and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) held a Workers’ Memorial Day event to honor those who have died or suffered injuries or illnesses (including COVID-19) while on the job, to recognize the sacrifices made by all essential workers on the front lines, and to renew the fight for strong safety and health protections. At the event, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the group gathered across the street from Elmhurst Hospital, the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May, eight of New York's leading Mayoral candidates participated in a virtual "Conversation with the Candidates" to make their cases before New York City's labor movement. Candidates Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Ray McGuire, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley, and Andrew Yang addressed questions submitted from every sector of our movement, including questions about the city’s recovery from the economic crisis brought on by COVID as well as other issues of critical concern to working families.
The CLC also announced our final round of endorsements for the 2021 primary elections, culminating in unified endorsements from the CLC’s Executive Board in 39 City Council races as well as Comptroller, Public Advocate, and two Borough President races. With your help, the NYC Labor Votes! “Get Out The Vote” campaign made 125,000 live phone calls; engaged with 110,000 voters via text; canvassed and completed literature drops at nearly 15,000 doors; and targeted more than 25,000 union households with digital ads over the final weeks before the primary.
And at the end of June, United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm came to New York City to highlight efforts to build a clean energy economy and create good-paying, union jobs. As part of the visit, she sat down with union leaders and workers, including CLC President Alvarez, at a roundtable organized by Climate Jobs NY. Secretary Granholm and participants discussed the value of having labor driving bold climate action while ensuring that the new clean energy economy is built with family-sustaining union jobs, noting that New York is leading the way by investing in large-scale offshore wind infrastructure with high-road labor standards. Click here for video of the event.
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The New York City Labor Movement was shocked and profoundly saddened by the sudden passing of AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka in early August. As the leader of our nation’s Labor Movement, he championed the belief that all work has dignity, along with the rights of all working people to bargain collectively, to fair wages and workplace safety, and to a voice at work. President Trumka was a larger than life figure, a tireless fighter on behalf of working men and women across our nation, and a true and loyal friend to the NYC Labor Movement.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler stepped up to serve, and was elected as the first female President of the federation of 56 unions and 12.5 million members. President Shuler has long been a tenacious and visionary leader and advocate for workers all across our nation, and the NYC CLC looks forward to our continued partnership as we fight for an economy that works for working families everywhere.
During Labor Week in September, hundreds of labor union members, leaders, and supporters joined the CLC for our Annual Banner Procession and Labor Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. We were pleased to be joined by Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. IBEW Local 3's Sword of Light Pipe and Drum Band led the procession of union banners before the service, which was celebrated by Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
We were also honored to have the opportunity to host United States Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh for a breakfast event with CLC Executive Board members during the week. Secretary Walsh’s words at the event reminded us that New York City unions have a true friend in Washington, serving as part of the most pro-union administration in memory.
Next year, we have every expectation of once again hosting the nation’s largest and oldest Labor Day Parade and March. So please mark your calendars to join us on Fifth Avenue on Saturday, September 10th, 2022!
On September 11th, we honored the memories of all those who tragically lost their lives 20 years ago on September 11th, including more than 600 who were members of New York City unions. As we marked the anniversary, our partners at NYCOSH worked to share information about the WTC Health Program, which provides healthcare to 9/11 responders and survivors, including no-cost medical monitoring and treatment. Visit NYCOSH's World Trade Center Health Program page for more information.
During Climate Week NYC, union members, labor leaders, policymakers, scientists, and climate justice activists came together for the second annual Climate Jobs and Just Transition Summit. Speakers included Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, NYC CLC President Vincent Alvarez, leaders and members of Climate Jobs NY unions and more. Participants engaged around building a clean energy economy at the scale science demands, powered by good union jobs — including victories over the past year, upcoming opportunities, and effective strategies.
As part of the 2021 NYC CLC/NYCOSH Occupational Safety and Health Series, in September we co-hosted a webinar on Vaccinations and Work featuring Ismael Nabeel of the Mount Sinai Selikoff Center for Occupational Health and Joseph Richardson of the Willig, Williams, Davidson Law Firm. The webinar included conversations with experts about the COVID Vaccine, COVID immunity, booster shots, and vaccine mandates, as well as examples of how unions have been encouraging vaccination.
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Our political work continued through the fall, first with the announcement of new 2021 General Election endorsements including Mayor and Comptroller, along with three additional Borough President endorsements and 15 additional endorsements for City Council. We concluded our general election process with our 2021 Labor Votes! Get Out The Vote mobilization. We partnered with the NYC Public Advocate's Office to present an overview of the New York State redistricting process, where experts discussed how lines are drawn to protect representation for communities. We facilitated discussions between affiliate Legislative and Political Directors and City Council Speaker candidates, as well as with newly appointed Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin. And in December, we were able to host incoming members of the New York City Council for a full day orientation on labor issues in partnership with Local Progress.
We celebrated the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a monumental political and legislative accomplishment. This is a $1.2 trillion investment in our infrastructure after decades of decline. It is a tremendous victory for working people in New York State in particular, where it will mean billions to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges; improve our public transit; invest in our airports; build a network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers; and connect every New Yorker to reliable high speed internet.
We were disappointed that the Senate failed to pass the Build Back Better Act or the PRO Act before breaking for recess, but these are still at the top of the Labor Movement’s agenda, and our elected officials must finish the job in January. Building on the infrastructure bill, Build Back Better is a $1.75 trillion investment in child care, home care, clean energy jobs, health care, tax fairness, immigration improvements and support for worker organizing. Working people in America have waited long enough. Sign petitions telling Congress to finish the job and pass Build Back Better and the PRO Act now!
We also continued our NYC CLC/NYCOSH Occupational Health and Safety Series with an overview seminar on workplace pandemic ventilation facilitated by Monona Rossol, an expert in chemical safety for workers and an advocate for making workplaces safer. Monona returned in November for a followup presentation on strategies for coordinating all of the various precautions and general recirculating ventilation systems (HVAC) to remove the virus. Keep an eye out for additional Safety and Health Series events in 2022.
Finally, the CLC completed the second phase of construction of our new office at 350 West 31st Street, building out the 8th floor of a building owned by the NY Metro American Postal Workers Union to make room for CLC affiliate offices in the space we had previously occupied. This continued development of a New York City Labor Center is helping us to create a cost-effective and permanent institutional presence where members and affiliates can collaborate, and project a message of solidarity, strength and purpose for our movement. We look forward to updating affiliates and partners on the availability of multi-use and flexible amenity space, including auditorium space for meetings and other training rooms.
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