District Council 37, the union representing roughly 90,000 municipal workers, reached a tentative five-year contract agreement Friday with Mayor Eric Adams’ administration guaranteeing annual raises and a signing bonus.
The preliminary deal, which still needs to be ratified by the union membership, would give DC 37 members — including school cafeteria workers, parent and community coordinators, school crossing guards, and child care workers — a $3,000 signing bonus and four years of 3% annual raises, with a 3.25% bump in the fifth year.
The tentative contract agreement will also set the template for the contracts of other unions currently in negotiations, including the United Federation of Teachers.
For some DC 37 workers, the pay bump represents at least a partial acknowledgment of their crucial work helping keep the city’s school system running during the pandemic, often at far lower wages than other school staffers, union officials said.
“I think this will be a morale booster,” said Donald Nesbit, vice president of DC 37 Local 372, which represents the union’s education department members.
The 3% annual raises are higher than the 1.25% yearly pay bumps Adams laid out in his preliminary budget last month, but may still not be enough to keep up with the pace of inflation, which measured 6.5% last year.
The tentative agreement also sets a minimum $18 hourly wage for DC 37 members. Along with its education department members, the union represents thousands of early childhood education workers, many of whom staff the city-funded prekindergarten and 3-K programs.
DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said the union represents roughly 1,000 different job titles, with members making as little as $25,000 a year and as much as $200,000.
Parent coordinators, who handle a wide range of responsibilities related to working with students’ families, can earn starting salaries of between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, according to education department job postings.
The municipal labor negotiations come as Adams warns of strong fiscal headwinds, and as billions of dollars in one-time federal COVID relief funds continue to dry up. The higher-than-budgeted annual raises will require the city to come up with new ways to cover the costs.
In addition to the pay increases, the deal sets up a committee to discuss remote and flexible work options for union members, a trust fund to support members with child care costs, and a pandemic response committee to help prepare workers for any future outbreaks.
The annual raises laid out in the DC 37 deal will likely be replicated in contracts with other municipal unions, including the UFT, as part of a system called “pattern bargaining.”
Arthur Goldstein, an English as a second language teacher at Francis Lewis High School in Queens and former member of the UFT’s executive committee, said he would “have a hard time supporting” a UFT deal with the same annual raises because of concerns about inflation and fears of future increases in healthcare premiums.
Michael Elsen-Rooney is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering NYC public schools. Contact Michael at email@example.com.