Bringing in the big bucks
||City Parking Equipment Service Workers like Richard Wright (above) and Duayne Samuel (below) collect $100 million in coins from DOT's computerized munimeters.
By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Jackie Onassis and the Rothschild bankers may own rare gold coins, but what makes New York City one of the world's biggest coin collectors is the hard work of 104 City Parking Equipment Service Workers, who haul in more than $100 million a year in meter money.
"These unsung heroes do invisible, behind-the-scenes work for the Department of Transportation, and their enormous contribution helps keep the whole city afloat financially," said Local 1455 President Mike DeMarco.
The workers no longer use steel pushcarts, technology has changed the job. "Going digital" in the switch to computerized munimeters means they no longer open mechanical meters to remove steel canisters filled with 80 to 100 pounds of nickels, dimes and quarters, he explained.
Now they exchange shoebox-sized coin cases from the solar-powered munimeters and load them on their truck.
Local 1455 took back the coin collection work from corrupt private contractors over 25 years ago, and in December DeMarco and the union defeated Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to contract out on-street parking. The mayor's plan would have handed the nation's largest municipal parking system to private contractors, farmed out meter installation and maintenance and opened motorists' wallets to excessive fines to profit greedy money managers. It also would also have led to layoffs for 47 City Parking Equipment Service Workers.
With help from City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca and other Council members, the union protected this valuable public asset. Local 1455's longstanding track record of handling the meter money without incidents of theft proved again that public workers do the job better than any private contractor.
In 2012 Local 1455 members at DOT successfully contracted in the massive citywide conversion to munimeters. But the Bloomberg administration wanted to downsize the force of workers who collect the tons of small change that add up to big income for the city.
DeMarco, with DC 37 Blue Collar Division Director Jose Sierra and others, negotiated to keep the work in-house and save members' jobs. They reached an agreement that averted layoffs, reduced the cut positions to four from 47, expanded the workers' duties to include maintaining and cleaning city-owned parking fields and removing snow and debris year-round as DOT placed some workers in different titles.
"Beating back privatization saved 43 jobs and kept a public trust out of private contractors' greedy hands," DeMarco said.
The job of City Parking Equipment Service Worker is physically taxing. Six days a week, they collect and load coins onto DOT trucks and safely transport the money to a secure facility where they count and sort change, remove foreign coins (the Greek drachma is most popular), slugs and even razor blades. They stash the sorted coins in 50-pound sacks that go to banks in armored trucks.
"We bring in more money every year, and we adapt to changes in technology so the city can meets its revenue projections," said DeMarco. "The job is dangerous. We are out in rain, snow and summer heat handling the city's money. No matter what, as public employees, we get the job done."
— Public Employee Press, September 2013