90 Church Street, a 15-story 1930’s- era building directly across the street from Ground Zero, houses approximately 2,500 employees of the US Postal Service, New York City Housing Authority (where I am employed), NY State Departments of Health and Public Service. On 9/11, the integrity of the building was compromised, fires were started, and the sprinkler system went for three days, which caused extensive mold. It took nearly 3 years to settle the insurance disputes and decontaminate and renovate the building. Almost everything within 90 Church Street, except the major structural elements and some sheetrock, had to be discarded. The windows at 90 Church were installed during the 1930’s. These windows were old and leaky; they could not alone protect us!
Faced with our members working in a building that had been terribly contaminated on 9/11, and would be surrounded for more than 10 years by dust, pollution, noise and construction around the WTC site, unions of returning federal, city workers and state workers (who were new occupants of the building), became united in an extraordinary health and safety organizing campaign. We contacted NYCOSH (New York Committee on Occupational Safety & Health) to send their industrial hygienists in and they helped us determine what needed to be done to protect the health and safety of the membership that will be returning to 90 Church.
I was asked by Local 237 to be the 90 Church Labor Coalition representative since I worked at what was now called, “Ground Zero,” on 9/11, and in the area around ground zero thereafter.
The State employees who were new occupants of 90 Church were assured that before they moved into this building, the lease would guarantee that interior windows would be installed on the 4 floors they were going to occupy.
Rank and file activists and local officers working at 90 Church Street organized the 90 Church Street Labor Coalition to insure that the remediation work in the building had been done properly. With the help of NYCOSH (New York Committee on Occupational Health and Safety) we pressured our employers and the landlord to provide necessary protections by installing well-sealed interior windows on all eleven floors like the State employees had.
It took a two-year crusade with rallies, press outreach, petitioning of the employees, leafleting of workers, residents, and labor-management meetings before NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) installed the interior windows on our 11 floors.
We worked together as a Coalition of every local represented at 90 Church St, AFSME, & Municipal Locals 154, 371, 957, and 1407, NY Metro Area Local 10, American Postal Workers Union, CWA local 1180, IBT Local 237, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 36, National Postal Mailhandlers Union Local 300, Organization of Staff Analysts, and Public Employees Federation Division 191,199 and 321.
I am now pleased to say that because of union solidarity and the support of the community, politicians, and environmental organizations, NYCOSH is honoring the 90 Church Street Labor Coalition with the LOCAL UNION AWARD on May 29, 2007. This award is being presented to the Coalition because of our Union Solidarity, avoiding ego conflicts, organizing across union lines, and sharing information we obtained from our own labor-management meetings.
The National Labor College/Cornell Partnership gave me the tools to continue to fight, to prove that Labor is still strong, and that an educated Union member is a Powerful union member. I am proud to say that I am a graduate of the National Labor College.