A six-year struggle for pay equity ended in July as DC 37, Local 374 and Wave Hill management negotiated salary increases worth about $115,000 for six Gardeners and three Maintainers.
“It was a tedious process but we were tenacious and never wavered. We knew eventually we’d be victorious and get these members the pay increases they deserved,” said Local 374 President Cuthbert Dickenson. When DC 37 won the right to represent Wave Hill employees in 2005, its leaders met with management to bring the salaries of Wave Hill workers into line with the pay of workers at other cultural institutions. “While DC 37 successfully negotiated pay adjustments to move these members along the city pay schedule,” DC 37 Research and Negotiations Associate Director Moira Dolan said, “their pay was still below that of members in comparable cultural institutions, which made it hard for Wave Hill to retain workers.” Budget shortfalls only frustrated the union and management’s attempts to find recurring funding, which was a significant expense. Wave Hill Gardeners and Maintainers work outdoors, in spring and summer, busily planting, pruning, and weeding; in the fall, transplanting and digging, maintaining walkways, arbors and lily ponds; and in winter months, clearing snow. Their back-breaking work seven days a week keeps the 28-acre park overlooking the Hudson pristine.
The mayor’s proposed budget would have reduced Wave Hill’s funding by half, management said. With DC 37 they jointly lobbied the City Council to restore the garden’s budget and funding to resolve the salary inequities that existed.Gardener Gelene Scarborough, a Local 374 chapter chair, testified how pay disparities led to retention problems and explained that the one-time cost to adjust wages for pay equity would be $115,000.
She asked the City Council to act and they listened. “Now I can pay my rent on time,” said a joyous Scarborough, a Wave Hill employee since 1999.
“My co-workers and I had a lot of questions and wondered how we could work together to fix this problem, what steps were involved. We just kept asking and never gave up,” said Gardener Will Wallace. “Many of my co-workers will use their raises for housing and to catch up on bills.”
“If members believe in their cause and work towards that goal, the union will help them succeed and prevail,” Dolan said. Clerical workers at Wave Hill were not affected, she said, but the union plans to address their issues in future negotiations.
Dickenson thanked “the members at Wave Hill for their patience and trust in the union to lead the fight. — Diana S Williams