After Wednesday’s story about the the planned picket line of union workers at the ACLU headquarters over botched contract negotiations, Runnin’ Scared spoke with ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. In no uncertain terms, he said that Local 2110 was being unfair, not him.
Romero claims that the ACLU is running a more than $8 million deficit, and that contributions to healthcare premiums are a way to share that burden.
“The collective bargaining unit are the only ACLU employees who don’t pay for their own healthcare,” notes Romero. The new contract asks for a $20 monthly contribution for individuals and a $40 contribution for families.
There’s also a scale and seniority issue, here. According to Romero, 17 of the 28 employees represented by the local are under the age of 35, suggesting that many of them are fresh out of school and are just passing through.
“You ask any New Yorker whether $41,000 a year for a 22-year-old is a living wage, they will all probably say yes.”
When asked about the just cause provision–the clause that makes capricious firings tougher for employers–Romero says its terms have not been discussed.
We reached back out to Local 2110 to give them a chance to respond (again, the Village Voice is also represented by Local 2110). Eden Schulz, the secretary-treasurer of the local, dismantled Romero’s arguments one by one.
To the claim that the just cause provision has not yet been discussed: “That is completely untrue,” she says. “They gave us a proposal about the just cause provision from the very beginning and they have not taken it off the table.”
That the new healthcare contributions are meager compared to what non-union staff pay is a common chorus among employers trying to pressure union workers, she explains.
And what about the hard-to-counter claim that young people are already being compensated fairly? Schulz makes two points. The first is that young people get sick, too, and the relative burden of the new premiums is greatest on them.
Schulz also claims that the ACLU “depends on the high turnover rate of young employees,” and is using that turnover rate to disenfranchise the union members who have spent their entire careers at the ACLU.
To make sure Runnin’ Scared understood that ACLU management feels persecuted in all this, Romero tells us that “[the union] is using the press to embarrass us and back us into a corner to make concessions that are not in keeping with the market and not in keeping with other employers.” He suggests that “it’s a subtle form of extortion.”
“They should be embarrassed,” says Schulz. “We resisted going public for many months. The fact that Romero has to outright misrepresent their position on the just cause provision is an indication of just how far we have to go. And I think that’s a shame.”
The picket went on Wednesday afternoon as planned. Click through for more pictures and a couple of Vines of today’s demonstration, courtesy of Local 2110.