Hudson Youth Dept. workers rally at City Hall, mayor refusing to recognize CWA
Aliya Schneider is reporting for Columbia-Greene Media employees of the Hudson Youth Department took to the streets March 16, marching to City Hall to ask for Mayor Kamal Johnson’s recognition and support in their efforts to unionize through the Communications Workers of America. The group chanted as they stood in front of City Hall, briefly waiting for Johnson to meet with them. Other city employees are represented by the Civil Service Employees Association and the police department is part of a law enforcement union. Youth department workers are currently offered CSEA health insurance, but they do not receive legal representation from the union and cannot participate in the union meetings to represent the department. Youth Department secretary Karlee Burchfield has led the efforts to unionize with CWA and all 22 youth center employees have signed on in support of joining CWA. In an exchange with the mayor Tuesday, Burchfield asked Johnson if he would support the group. “We need to be protected,” Burchfield said. “We cannot continue to let this happen to our workers that are helping the impoverished and the people of color of our community.” Johnson reacted, noting that he is a person of color. “I’m not gonna let some white woman tell me how a person of color should feel,” he said. Burchfield answered, saying that she was not telling Johnson how to feel. Burchfield was selected by her co-workers as their representative. The department largely employs and serves people of color, she said. “There’s a history of the youth center being singled out,” Burchfield said. “People think that’s crazy because we have a person of color as the mayor, but that doesn’t change anything or how we’re perceived as a department,” Johnson said he supports the unionization efforts, but he has to make sure it is done legally; he then accused CWA of not following through by providing information to the city labor attorney Elena DeFio Kean. CWA business agent Rob Pinto asked Johnson multiple times in front of City Hall if he would sign a voluntary recognition form supporting the union, but Johnson declined, saying he would do so only after the union rep speaks with the city attorney. Johnson told the protesters they were led astray coming to City Hall, saying they should be protesting CSEA instead. But the department is not interested in CSEA, Burchfield said. NOTE: Johnson is a WGXC volunteer on-air programmer. Read the full story at HudsonValley360 [dot] com.