Mayor Eric Adams has cut a $4.4 billion deal with New York City’s largest civilian employees union — which was an early backer of his campaign for City Hall — that includes more than 16% in total pay hikes over nearly five and half years and allows some employees to work remotely.
The tentative agreement with DC 37 and its 90,000 municipal workers is retroactive, beginning on May 26, 2021, and expires on Nov. 6, 2026. The total $4.4 billion value of the contract will be paid from city taxpayer coffers and by tapping labor reserves for the duration.
The deal — which must be approved by the union’s rank and file — includes wage increases of 3% for each of the first four years of the contract and 3.25% in the final year.
The compounded increase comes to 16.21% for the duration of the contract. It also includes a sweetener to woo rank-and-file members to approve the deal — a $3,000 “ratification” bonus that is pensionable.
Labor sources gleefully noted that there were no concessions or givebacks from the union as part of the deal.
The DC 37 deal marks a significant turnabout for Adams, who initially recommended a 1.5% annual salary increase for new labor contracts, union sources noted.
On its face, the numbers indicate that the deal is more generous than the prior contract that former Mayor Bill de Blasio negotiated with DC 37 in 2018 — totaling just over 7.4% in pay hikes over 44 months. But labor sources said record high inflation over the past year has eaten away at workers’ wallets.
One budget watchdog raised a big red flag after Adams’ announcement, estimating that extending the DC 37 pay hike deal to the entire unionized municipal workforce in the city would cost more than $16 billion.
“The tentative New York City-District Council 37 contract announced today provides raises that are very reasonable given recent and anticipated inflation. The great challenge, however, still is how the city will pay for them,” said Citizens Budget Commission president Andrew Rein.
“Assuming this tentative agreement sets the pattern for all other unions, these raises would cost approximately $16.2 billion more than currently budgeted over the contract period,” he said.
The CBC estimates the budget gaps would widen to approximately $2.5 billion this year, $2.3 billion in FY 2024, $6.4 billion in FY 2025, $9.1 billion in FY 2026 and $10.5 billion in FY 2027.
“The city should be implementing a growing, multiyear program to eliminate the gap in the executive budget to offset these multibillion-dollar collective bargaining costs,” said Rein.
Still, City Hall sees the DC 37 deal as the framework for contract bargaining with the other major unions — including the powerful United Federation of Teachers, said Labor Commissioner Renee Campion.
“I am a blue-collar mayor who has stood shoulder to shoulder with working people all my life — to fight for fairer wages, better benefits, and a better quality of life,” Adams said in announcing the pending contract.
“This is the first tentative agreement we have reached under this administration, and it is a great deal for workers and fair to city taxpayers.”
Asked if there were any union givebacks to pay for the burden on taxpayers of the raises and costs of the contract, Adams said only that the DC 37 workers “are the taxpayers,” apparently ignoring the millions of Big Apple wage earners who are not members of the union.
City Budget Director Jaques Jiha suggested there would have to be belt-tightening in agencies to pay for the labor contracts.
“We are going to take some measures,” Jiha, without specifying whether positions would be eliminated.
The city and DC 37 also will establish a committee to determine flexible work schedules such as hybrid remote work for some office employees — an option that became popular during the coronavirus pandemic.
The parties said a trial program for remote work options could start by June 1 of this year.
Adams admitted he’s not a fan of remote work, having once decried it by saying, “You can’t stay home in your pajamas all day,” but said he has to deal with reality in a post-pandemic era.
“It’s the world we’re live in right now,” Adams said. “It’s imperative that we do it right.”
Adams referenced a sobering report that found Manhattan-based workers are spending at least $12.4 billion less per year than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic drove a shift toward remote work.
DC 37 represents employees in virtually every city agency — including those in clerical, social service, maintenance, and school support jobs such as crossing guards and cafeteria workers.
The deal also includes funding for a childcare trust fund to be run by the union and funding for improved retention and recruitment efforts.
The parties also agreed that as of July 1, 2023, every employee covered by this contract will earn at least $18 per hour — a rate that exceeds the $15 minimum hourly wage.
DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said, “Through this contract, we’ve secured long-overdue raises for city workers, protected their premium-free health benefits, and lifted the lowest wages to an $18 minimum.
“We made changes that will help the city be competitive in its retention and recruitment of workers, including the creation of a child care trust fund and flexible work schedules with telecommuting options. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished for our members, and we thank Mayor Adams and Commissioner Campion for negotiating a fair and reasonable contract.”
One law enforcement union representing city police officers, while applauding the deal for DC 37, said cops deserve better.
“PBA members are stretched well past our breaking point. Far too many police officers have left for better pay and better quality of life in other policing jobs. The NYPD’s ongoing staffing emergency is impacting public safety for all New Yorkers,” said PBA president Patrick Lynch.
“The PBA has been working intently with the city and state arbitrators to reach a resolution that improves our members’ pay and working conditions. That resolution must come soon – not only for our sake but for the sake of the city we serve.”