In 1940 School Lunch Workers made 50 cents an hour and nothing more.  This meant no health benefits, no job security, and no pension plan.  There was no union, no grievance process and no way to fight back.

Then came Harry Gray, he was a Lunch Worker in the Central Kitchen of the Bureau of Lunches.  He was a worker, a fighter and a believer in people power and the power of unions.  In 1941, he put this beliefs into action as he began organizing other workers and “talking union.”  He spoke of better wages, better working conditions and a better way of life.  The more Harry talked the more workers listened.  By 1943, his “union talk” had organized 500 Central Kitchen workers.  As more people got involved, the organizing grew.  People like; Goodman “Goddie” Kerstein kept the momentum going and eventually this momentum led to organizing not only the workers of Central Kitchen but also the Lunch workers in elementary schools.  As more and more workers joined together, the union; Local 372 was born.

In 1945, the members of Local 372 were able to win their first pay increase of 15 cents, bringing them from 50 cents an hour to 65 cents an hour.  However, there was more.  The members were also able to win 20 vacation days and 12 sick days for all monthly/annual workers.  A year later members fought for and won the right to participate in the Board of Education retirement program. Additionally full time workers had their work week cut from 42 hours to 37.5, with no decrease in pay.  It had become clear that the Lunch Workers and now members of Local 372 had left the days of meager pay and nothing more behind.

Today, Local 372 is the largest union within District Council 37, which is the largest municipal union in New York City. All Local 372 members are within the schools supporting the administration and teachers to ensure that New York City’s public school children are safe and learning.

Local 372 represents nearly 25,000 Department of Education employees who provide essential support services to the 1.2 million children – and their families – in New York City public schools. The jobs our members do are critical in making the school system properly function. Without the work of our members, school teachers would not have the sufficient time to teach in the classrooms. Local 372 members, who are sometimes referred to as “non-pedagogical” employees because they are non-teaching staff, work in the cafeterias handling food and watching/helping children, in the hallways and schoolyards monitoring children to ensure their safety, in classrooms providing anti-violence/gang and drug prevention counseling, in homeless shelters to ensure that parents send their children to school despite living in a shelter, in DOE warehouses dealing with non-perishable goods, on trucks bringing supplies to the schools, and in the streets as crossing guards to make sure kids get to school safely.

School Aides – They help the teachers get prepared to teach, doing administrative work that the teacher would otherwise do — freeing up time so the teacher has more time to teach. Without our school aides, our children not enjoy the undivided attention of their teachers. School aides also monitor school yards and make sure predators are not in the yards, they help keep schools safe for kids.

Health Aides – Children invariably get sick and have accidents during the day. That’s when our health aides step in as they staff the school health services rooms. They’re trained and ready to administer first aid to kids.

School Lunch Employees – (Cooks, Lunch Helpers, Loaders & Handlers) Studies prove that children who eat breakfast learn better than those who go without breakfast. Our lunch employees — from those who prepare nutritious meals to those who monitor the lunch room to ensure its peace and safety — are there feeding kids to make sure they’re healthy and prepared to learn.

School Crossing Guards – They’re your children’s first line of defense, on the streets everyday in freezing weather, rain, and snow to make sure your child crosses the streets safely. A safe school day begins with our crossing guards.

Substance Abuse Prevention & Intervention Specialists (SAPIS) – Children are faced with all types of issues regarding substance abuse in today’s society. Our SAPIS workers are specially trained in substance abuse prevention. They provide critical education, prevention, and intervention services to ensure that children lead a substance-free life.

Family Paraprofessionals – Parents need resources in the schools. Our family paraprofessionals assist parents by tracking student absenteeism, making home calls and visits to prevent truancy. They’re a trusted resource and help parents find and utilize community services to help their children.

Parent Coordinators, Community Associates, Community Coordinators, School Neighborhood Workers – New York City schools, which are very bureaucratic, have become one of the most complex systems for parents to navigate. Our parent coordinators act as a conduit between the school, the teachers, the administration and the children. Parent coordinators help parents get involved and get the services they need to ensure gets a proper education.