Hundreds of New York nonprofit social and health service workers gain union recognition

More than 250 social and health service workers in New York City officially joined AFSCME District Council 37 this week, following a strong organizing push and voluntary recognition from management.

The agreement between Breaking Ground, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and related services for the homeless, and DC 37 recognized the intention of the workers to unionize. It is the first such agreement since Intro. 2252, known locally as the labor peace agreement, was signed into law earlier this year.

“Breaking Ground is setting the example for how it’s done. Workers got together, decided they wanted to organize and management supported them. That’s how it should be,” said Henry Garrido, DC 37’s executive director. “I want to thank Breaking Ground for their partnership in this effort and congratulate the workers on their success. We’re excited to have you join the family.”

“The success of our work is built with people – most especially our dedicated employees – and we value everyone as a part of the solution," said Brenda Rosen, president and CEO of Breaking Ground. "That is why we chose to voluntarily recognize DC 37 and work together to further our shared mission and values. We will move forward in good faith to establish an equitable and sustainable contract.”

Breaking Ground employees began their organizing campaign this summer and filed for a union with DC 37 on Aug. 27. Now that voluntary recognition has been achieved and the union cards have been officially checked, Breaking Ground employees will begin negotiating with management for a contract in the coming weeks.

The following Breaking Ground job classifications will become part of DC 37: 311 dispatchers; case managers; engineers; harm reduction specialists; housekeepers; housing advocates; housing reporting specialists; housing specialists; maintenance workers; office managers; outreach case managers; painters; porters; rent administrators and residential aides.

DC 37 is New York City’s largest municipal union, representing 150,000 workers and 50,000 retirees, including 18,000 nonprofit human and social services workers.

Breaking Ground is New York's largest nonprofit developer and operator of supportive housing, with over 4,400 units of transitional and permanent housing under management. The agency also runs street homeless outreach programs in Brooklyn, Queens and Midtown Manhattan, and housing in upstate New York and Connecticut.