A year ago at this time, none of us could have ever imagined that the world as we knew it would soon change so swiftly, so dramatically and so terribly.
But we want you to know that even though so many of us have been suffering greatly through a pandemic that has created the most difficult period our country has ever faced, Local 153 is still on the job..
It hasn’t been easy, but we have won new contracts, we have represented members in grievances, we have negotiated with employers for terms to assist members during this sudden and unprecedented mass unemployment, we have negotiated furloughs instead of layoffs to save members’ medical coverage, we had members phone bank for Joe Biden, we increased our representation capability by hiring an additional Business Representative, we took advantage of the Organizing Apprentice program by bringing on an Organizer and, as a result, we organized new members, and we have had innumerable conversations with management to deal with the myriad of issues raised by COVID-19.
There are other things we have done. We have taken the necessary steps to tighten our belt so that the union can continue to survive, even while so many members are not working.
One way we are tightening our belt is by relocating our offices to save on rent. We have moved to 42 Broadway, where we are temporarily operating out of room 1936 until our new office space is built out. After the build out we will be located on the 12th floor. This move to a lower rent building will save our union a substantial amount of money, in fact, hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next decade. But please note that our phone number and email contacts remain the same.
The pandemic has led to necessary changes at our union, some of which are temporary and others that will actually be permanent. As one example, we hired an industrial hygienist, Jonathan Rosen, to assist us in determining any areas where COVID-19 represents a threat or actual danger in our members’ workplaces. As another example, the need to work remotely led us to put into effect an ACH system that allows us to receive dues money electronically and dispense money electronically. Along with increasing accounting efficiency, this digital transformation allows us to save money in other ways.
We have also expanded our email contact list. We can now communicate electronically with more than 8,000 of our union’s members. But we would really like to communicate with all members through email. If you haven’t already added your name to our email list you can do so at Local 153’s website: OPEIU-Tristate.org
Indeed, the pandemic has caused our union to evolve out of necessity. COVID-19 has made Zoom one of the most widely used new words in our collective vocabulary. This tool has proved invaluable, as Local 153 now conducts board meetings, membership meetings, webinars, town hall events and other gatherings through members’ home computers. Yes, meetings can be as simple as connecting with us via Zoom. As an example, the Federation of Catholic Teachers has successfully held meetings with its members electronically and even Local 153’s January general membership meeting was held via Zoom. These electronic meetings make it easier for members to attend and easier to participate, and it is likely we will continue using this means of communication in many cases even after the pandemic ends.
We know it hasn’t been easy for you and your families. But our union has survived and we hope that all of you will return to work and to normality as the country’s population becomes sufficiently vaccinated. For now, we encourage you to use the union’s benefits booklet that is readily available at OPEIU-tristate.org. There, you will find benefits and services that might well lower costs for you at a time when all of us are forced to economize.
We have never faced a situation like the one caused by COVID-19. It is, quite simply, the worst event under which our union has ever had to operate. We have been through wars, stock market crashes, recessions and 9/11, and we honestly believe the pandemic is worse than all of those combined. Yet we have survived. We endure. And we will continue to do everything possible to assist all of you in returning to your jobs and, hopefully, returning as well to some semblance of normalcy. Until then, please stay safe.