NY1 VIDEO: The Road to City Hall’s Errol Louis visited City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s 25th city council district in Queens.
NY1 VIDEO: Two local City Council members, Julissa Ferreras and Daniel Dromm, are calling on Trade Fair Supermarkets in Queens to bring locked out union members back to work.
“I will not tolerate this treatment of workers in my community,” Dromm said. “My office is here to serve you.”
Dromm held a news conference with members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 342 union in which he signed a petition in support of Trade Fair’s meat department workers, which is in contract negotiations with the supermarket chain’s ownership. Trade Fair, which markets itself on carrying food native to the diverse populations in its neighborhoods, has 11 locations in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside and Richmond Hill.
Trade Fair said it had no comment on the negotiations or Dromm’s support of the union. Stores in Jackson Heights and Astoria have a sign posted about the negotiations indicating Trade Fair’s need to be competitive with non-union stores.
Kate Meckler, spokeswoman for Local 342, said the union has been bargaining for more than a year with the ownership, including Trade Fair President Frank Jabber, on behalf of 100 meat department workers across the 11 stores. Meckler said the workers want fair wages, to maintain their health care benefits and to keep their Sunday premium hours, but Jabber wants to make all full-time workers part-time and to end any wage increases.
“His proposals that he’s offered to the workers are unacceptable,” Meckler said.
Some workers say Jabber has also threatened retaliation and posted “Help Wanted” signs in some store windows.
“They say if they take any action to get their contract, they would be replaced,” said a Spanish-to-English translator on behalf of 15-year-meat department worker Milvia Lopez.
The union said workers had gone on an unfair labor practice strike at the stores Wednesday morning. They offered to come back to work later in the afternoon, but the company refused, the union said.
Employees of Trade Fair who do not work in the meat department are represented by a different union and are still under their previous contract, Meckler said.
Dromm has fought with Trade Fair in the past, particularly the location at 75-07 37th Ave. near his office, which he visited to express his support of the meat department workers. The councilman has criticized the 75th Street Trade Fair for erecting a sidewalk enclosure, which was later taken down after the supermarket received a fine from the city Department of Buildings.
He also slammed the store for allowing delivery trucks to idle outside the store after one truck driver allegedly struck the councilman and took his phone.
“Mr. Jabber thinks he’s above the law, and we’ve seen this type of behavior before,” Dromm said. “We say that he is a menace to our community.”
Teachers and parents in Jackson Heights voiced their concerns over teacher layoffs at a town hall meeting hosted by Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and United Federation of Teachers Queens District 30 Representative Barbara Mylite on Monday.
At the meeting, held in the auditorium of PS 69 in Jackson Heights, Dromm spoke of his time as a teacher in Queens and expressed his concerns about education cuts and the upcoming budget deadline.
“We have a $3 billion surplus. Why are we even thinking about cuts?” he said. “The mayor doesn’t believe in career educators.
“He must have had a bad teacher when he was young.”
Dromm then accused Mayor Bloomberg of using the teacher cuts to take down the unions.
Bloomberg’s proposed $65.7 billion executive spending plan for fiscal year 2012 calls for about 6,100 fewer teachers.
The City Council is in charge of approving the final budget, which must be in place before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.
Bloomberg has said the layoffs are necessary because of budget cuts from the state and federal governments, as well as rising healthcare and pension costs.
But many council members, including Dromm and Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), argue that the layoffs will be devastating to the school system. They say there are other places the cuts can be made.
“Losing teachers would result in, among other things, larger class sizes and a substantial deterioration of the system’s ability to provide children with the quality education they deserve,” Quinn and Council Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia Jr. (D-Brooklyn) said in a joint statement on June 1.
Quinn and Recchia identified several areas of the Department of Education’s budget they believe could be trimmed in place of teachers, including many top administrative positions, technology and contracts for professional development.
“To date, our alternative cuts total more than $75 million that could be used toward saving teachers and preventing layoffs,” Quinn and Recchia said.
The UFT is asking the council members to intervene and prevent what they call an educational disaster before the July 1 deadline.
At the town hall meeting, Dromm insisted there are other ways to avert the layoff crisis.
“The discussion should not be about cuts. The discussion should be about revenue-raising ideas,” he said.
Parents at the PS 69 meeting said they were worried the cuts would lead to more crowded classrooms. Teachers expressed concerns about tenure and seniority.
Dromm noted that Bloomberg wants to get rid of last in first out, the practice in which the least experienced teachers are the first to be let go when layoffs occur.
The point of tenure is to protect teachers, and Bloomberg wants to take that away, Dromm said.
“Seniority is at the heart of what the unions are about,” and the mayor wants to put an end to that as well, Dromm said.
Union leaders, parents and teachers said they will continue to fight the proposed budget.
“We cannot force the mayor’s hand without the UFT, without teachers rallying,” Dromm said.
Dromm promised those present that he would work for them on the budget.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget unveiled yesterday called for closing fire companies, shutting senior centers, and the layoffs of more than 4,600 teachers. Yet he says his budget is not an assault on unions.
“Cutting back is not anti-union. Cutting back is pro…, I guess you could say, pro-taxpayer,” said Bloomberg on his weekly radio show Friday.
Police and firefighter unions, however, are continuing their theme of saying the mayor is a liar. They are upset Bloomberg is demanding they give up a $12,000 yearly pension supplement.
The United Federation of Teachers also released an ad against the mayor’s agenda.
More generally, unions citywide are seething over calls they contribute to pensions and raise their retirement ages.
“The mayor is using the economic situation to take away some of the benefits that have been hard fought for over the years,” said Queens Councilman Daniel Dromm.
Some observers see a common theme across the country, as city and state leaders all over use the countrywide budget crisis to crack down on organized labor.
In Wisconsin, the new governor pushed a bill to limit collective bargaining.
“We’re starting to see that the Republicans and the right wing are admitting that their whole entire goal is to decimate unions, so that there is nobody speaking for the working poor in this country,” said Gregory Floyd of Teamsters Local 237.
Bloomberg would hardly say he is doing that. If anything, he is looking for more collective bargaining. Pensions are bleeding the city, but only the state government is allowed to negotiate them, instead of the mayor.
“I’ve never blamed the municipal unions for our problems,” said the mayor. “I think we should all look in the mirror. Our legislators and executives give away stuff and we don’t get it back.”
On his weekly radio show on Friday, the mayor said with a four-year budget gap of nearly $5 billion, not everyone’s job can be saved.
“If we get more money, we’ll have to step back and say, ‘Do you want fewer teachers, for example, and more cops? Do you want another firehouse or another school?’ I mean, it’s those kinds of either/or decisions,” said Bloomberg.
Still, Bloomberg raises suspicions among some. He is mysteriously pushing for thousands of teacher layoffs, even as he prizes himself as a “schools first” mayor.
That is opening himself up to charges that he is only using the economy as a ruse, and will pull back most of the 6,000 lost teaching positions in exchange for changes to the seniority system when schools fire educators.
More bad news for the school system came late Friday, when the Department of Education said state aid is forcing it to cut construction funding for almost 17,000 new school seats — a 48 percent reduction.
“The precedent is very troublesome,” said Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, noting the city plans to appeal. “We’ve got a multibillion-dollar deficit. … How do we protect patients or families in need of services or shelter for the homeless if we have every special-interest group appealing to a judge for special protection?”
At issue are 150 carpenters, electricians and plumbers who were scheduled to be laid off from city public hospitals in September until their unions – together with three City Council members – sued to save their jobs.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger last week ruled that the job losses would undermine public safety, and barred the city from issuing pink slips.
The city says it’s losing $1 million a month because of the lawsuit and will have to cut other programs instead.
The Council members behind the suit – Daniel Dromm, Karen Koslowitz and Julissa Ferreras, all Queens Democrats – hailed the victory for workers and for the patients who use the hospitals. “We got a judge … who saw the connections between the layoffs and the quality of care and service that the patients need and should be provided,” Dromm said.
The Council members are also looking at the precedent – especially as Mayor Bloomberg plans to slash 889 jobs from libraries, cultural agencies and the Administration for Children’s Services by the end of June. “This could be a potential threat,” Ferreras said. “As the administration starts to consider other layoffs, they can make a reference to the lawsuit and say, ‘Wait a minute … let me really, really think hard about these layoffs before we do them.'”
Vantage Management Services, part of Vantage Properties, announced the deal with the union, Teamsters Local 808, that followed months of negotiations last week at an event attended by lawmakers, union officials and Vantage employees at Cafe Rubio in Flushing.