Tag Archives: strike

LIRR strike averted: MTA and unions reach deal

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sara Touzard

Updated 2:40 p.m.

MTA officials and LIRR unions came to a tentative agreement Thursday, avoiding a workers’ strike that would have stranded 300,000 commuters daily. 

Union negotiators and MTA representatives worked through Wednesday night on the deal, and talks continued with Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.

“Next week if there was a strike it would have been a really problematic situation of the highest level,” Cuomo said. “So this is very good news.”  

LIRR workers will see a 17 percent wage increase over six and a half years with the new agreement. The MTA wanted a 17 percent wage increase over seven years, while the union desired it over six years. The deal settled the impasse between both sides and will allow the MTA to pay for the salary bump while not increasing fares for riders. 

Through the agreement, the transit workers will contribute a percent of their wages toward health care costs, which they currently do not, and new employees will have different wage progressions and pension plan contributions. 

The agreement still needs to be approved by the eight Long Island Rail Road unions’ executive boards, ratified by the members and approved by the MTA board.


Impending school-bus strike could leave students stranded

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

File photo

A city-wide school-bus strike, leaving 152,000 children stranded, is likely to begin on Wednesday.

According to the New York Post, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 has begun printing strike posters, assigning members to picket line locations at various bus yards and handed out a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for conduct during a strike. The strike could be announced as early as today.

Last week, School’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott released a statement, addressing parents concerns about getting their children to school should there be a strike. According to the statement, the Department of Education (DOE) will implement measures including robo-calling affected families and providing MetroCards and reimbursements for those who must drive or use a car service.

Nearly 54,000 of the students left without bus service have disabilities and require special transportation services.

“The union is asking for something we cannot legally deliver and are putting a central and necessary service at risk,” Walcott said. “A strike would be irresponsible and would adversely impact our students and their families who rely on bus service to get to and from school. As the City continues to take all possible precautions in advance of a potential strike, we are asking parents to make a plan in the event that busing is disrupted.”

Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union threatened to strike due to contract bid specifications excluding job guarantees for certain current drivers. According to the DOE, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that such a guarantee, known as the Employee Protection Provision, could not be included under the circumstances of the bids for pre-kindergarten bus contracts last year.

JFK security workers agree to hold off on strike

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Travelers headed through John F. Kennedy International Airport can breathe a sigh of relief, as, for now, security workers will remain on the job.

Employees of the Air Serv and Global Elite security organizations had voted unanimously to go on strike starting Thursday, December 20, right before the airport’s holiday rush. However, in response, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey asked the disgruntled protestors to call off their strike and, furthermore, asked contractors to meet with them.

On Tuesday, December 18, security workers opted to halt the work stoppage.

Both groups previously filed complaints with the Transportation Security Authority (TSA), but to no avail. The complaints, filed several months ago, cited problems with officials making workers cut corners during security procedures, along with substandard working conditions.

Since submitting the complaints, organization officials have “interrogated” workers, and forbid them to talk to the media, according to Prince Jackson, a three-year employee of Air Serv.

But the workers instead united, joining together along with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, and authorized a strike at a rally on Thursday, December 13. Global Elite followed suit the next day.

Jackson said that since the Port Authority intervened just days after the strike authorization, employees have agreed to “hold off” their strike, pending talks with officials.

“We look forward to discussing our concerns with the contractors,” he said.

At a previous rally in October, Air Serv and Global Elite workers picketed outside of JFK, chanting for change. Global Elite employees said that many times, officials have them rush through inspections of an aircraft after it lands.

“Inspecting an aircraft should take 30 to 40 minutes, but we’re given 10 minutes for most flights, I don’t think it’s safe,” said Yonathan Verasteguy of Global Elite.

Despite a mandate for all airport security officers to thoroughly inspect each plane, many times employees are not permitted the proper amount of time to do so. For many turnaround flights, they must sweep through an aircraft quickly so as not to delay the following flight out.

Global Elite responded to employees’ concerns in a statement, saying they have always maintained an open dialogue with workers and go to great lengths to ensure a positive work environment.

Similarly, Air Serv stated they value employees’ input on matters of concern to them, and will be speaking with workers on these matters in the coming days and weeks. However, they also claim that officials became aware of these issues just last week.

A TSA spokesperson said that they did conduct an investigation, and found no regulatory violations but will continue to monitor the situation.

There is no set date for workers to sit with security contractors. The security officers at Global and Air Serv are, in the meantime, forming a labor organization to fight against suppression of their rights.

Nurses say staffing cuts hurt Ozanam residents

| mchan@queenscourier.com


While unionized nursing home workers in Bayside continue to cry foul at Ozanam Hall management for what they called damaging staffing policies, a “mystified” local legislator found himself caught in the crossfire.

UFCW Local 342 — the union that represents more than 400 nursing home workers at Ozanam — rallied outside the home on May 18 to draw attention to the decline in resident care. They said Ozanam management has cut staff hours, no longer replaces staffers who call out sick and is pushing to reduce the full-time work week from 37.5 hours to 35.

“The home is neglecting their responsibilities to its residents and its staff,” said Cheryl Van Putten, a nursing assistant at Ozanam for 17 years. “It is not fair for the residents who look to the staff to help and support them each and every day. It is not fair to the staff because it breaks our hearts to see the residents overburdened with exhaustion.”

The union has been negotiating with Ozanam management since 2010 for a new contract. A strike vote had recently been approved by members working at the home, but the union did not disclose further information on the measure.

“The members are willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain proper care for the residents and get what they deserve,” said Kate Meckler, the union’s director of communications.

Ozanam did not return repeated calls for comment. However, administration at the non-profit facility and officials at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn — whose auspices the home runs under — reached out to Senator Tony Avella shortly before the rally.

Avella, who was initially invited to the event, said management and the diocese wanted to give him their side of the story. They told him they felt the facility was well-served and offered to give the senator a tour in the near future, he said.

However, the conversations triggered union representatives to pull Avella’s invite hours before the rally — a move that puzzled the senator.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” Avella said. “I’ve never had a situation like this in all my years of service. If anything, [conversations between management and the diocese] give me a better opportunity to help. Even when I walk the picket line, I always say the best thing is for the two sides to sit and work together.”

Meckler said union reps chose to disinvite Avella because of his “changed positions” in signing a letter to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.

“This press conference was not about the two sides needing to bargain. It was about how this will affect the residents. The whole point was to have a public display of support by signing this letter to the bishop, which is why I invited the senator in the first place,” Meckler said.

Avella said he never stated whether or not he was going to sign the letter and defended allegations made against him by the union of being dissuaded from supporting the workers.

“I don’t ever back off anything if I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Union members should have a fair contract and work under fair working conditions and the clients have to be properly served.”

Negotiations continue, nurses set to strike

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Registered nurses at Flushing Hospital plan to strike soon following disputes between hospital management and fruitless pickets.

The hospital’s 420 nurses will walk off the job on the morning of February 7, protesting what they call “unfair contract negotiations.”

“This situation has left us with our backs to a wall,” said Theresa McGorty, a registered nurse and co-chair of the bargaining unit. “We’re not asking for anything out of the ordinary. We just need to be able to recruit and retain professional registered nurses by keeping us in line with other facilities.”

According to Mark Genovese, spokesperson for New York State Nurses Association — which represents Flushing’s nurses — they are currently negotiating a new contract with hospital management to improve working conditions, including a “fair salary increase.”

The nurses’ contract expired on December 31. Although health benefits continue 90 days after expiration, Genovese said pension plans ended for good on January 1.

An interim agreement signed by hospital administration would guarantee the continuation of both contracts for six months while the parties continue to negotiate, but Genovese said the hospital would not grant the extension.

“Having no benefits and no pension after 35 years of service is like a slap in the face,” McGorty said.

A federally-required 10-day notice of intent to strike was filed on January 24 with the National Labor Relations Board, hospital management and local police, union representatives said.

An interim agreement had not been signed yet as of January 25.

“The clock is ticking on those 90 days, and the pension has already been discontinued,” said Genovese. “It’s just a cheap tactic intended to intimidate the nurses. It’s clear that management is not actively trying to negotiate — they’re just trying to enforce everything on us.”

Among many things, Genovese said part of what incensed the union was hospital management’s plans to have registered nurses pay more for their health insurance, which he said would total about an additional $4,800 a year.

He also said they are demanding givebacks in pension plans, essentially dropping the nurses to a lower level of health care in which “the benefits would be less and the costs would be more.” Genovese said the nurses would lose out on about $150,000 in lost retirement income over a lifetime.

Flushing Hospital declined to comment on any allegations regarding contracts, but Michael Hinck, a spokesperson for Flushing Hospital’s parent company MediSys, said management is working closely with the union to reach a reasonable deal.

Flushing Hospital Medical Center will resume its negotiations with NYSNA next week. Flushing Hospital seeks to reach a fair agreement with its staff,  who are members of [the union],” Hinck said.

More than 200 of the hospital’s registered nurses hit the picket line outside the Parsons Boulevard facility on January 5. Still, after seeing no progress, the union said they are left with no choice but to strike.

“We’re leaving room for management to come back to the table and talk to us,” Genovese said. “The goal is not to have a strike. The goal is to get a fair contract for the nurses. But, we’ll strike if necessary.”

Queens man may have committed suicide by fireworks

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens man may have committed suicide by fireworks

A troubled Queens man may have committed suicide by fireworks yesterday. Horrified relatives discovered Theodore Ellinghaus Jr., 50, dead in the second-floor hallway of his house on 111th Avenue in South Ozone Park at 9:28 a.m. — after the powerful M80 he was holding to his stomach exploded, police said. “I’m mourning my son,” said the victim’s anguished father, Theodore Ellinghaus Sr., who was inside the home during the blast. The blast ripped off two fingers from Ellinghaus Jr.’s hand and tore a hole through his stomach, leaving his organs exposed, sources said. The NYPD’s bomb squad responded to the scene, but determined it was an isolated incident. No one else was injured. Read More: New York Post


Queens Woman, Son Allegedly Threatened By Ex-Boyfriend With Cleaver

Police in Queens were searching late Monday for a man who allegedly threatened an ex-girlfriend with a meat cleaver. Authorities say Damion Jackson, 41, seen above, made his way up a fire escape and used a brick to break a window at the woman’s apartment on Sunday. He allegedly entered the apartment and grabbed the meat cleaver from the kitchen. They say he made several threats to kill his ex-girlfriend and her son before dropping the weapon and running away. Read More: NY1


Jackson Heights community rallies against Trade Fair

The Jackson Heights community is fed up with a local supermarket’s “un-Fair” procedures. Councilmember Daniel Dromm and neighborhood residents united on January 17 in front of Trade Fair, a supermarket located at 75-07 37th Avenue, to protest the grocer’s persistent violations of city laws and regulations. “Trade Fair’s violations have created an unsafe environment for the Jackson Heights community and ruined the appearance of the neighborhood to the detriment of both residents and fellow business owners,” said Dromm. “We are demanding that Trade Fair do right by our neighborhood.” Read More: Queens Courier


Local immigration office opens

In an effort to increase accessibility and convenience for its customers, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially opened to the public with help from elected officials, as well as immigration service representatives. The new USCIS Queens center, located at 27-35 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, will serve up to 500 customers from Queens and Brooklyn every day. The center will incorporate both a full service field office and an application support center – this will mean customers will not have to go to separate locations for fingerprinting and biometrics. Read More: Queens Courier


Nurses’ Union Approves Strike At Flushing Hospital

About 430 nurses at Flushing Hospital Medical Center in Queens may be walking off the job next month, as they notified the hospital of the potential strike on Monday. While the New York State Nurses Association approved the strike on Friday, federal law states that the union cannot start a strike until 10 days after the hospital has been notified. The nurses are asking for an increase in pensions and medical benefits. Their contract ended on December 31 and their health care benefits will expire at the end of February. Nurses told NY1 on Monday it was difficult coming to work knowing their benefits will run out soon. They also claimed to be the lowest-paid registered nurses in Queens. Read More: NY1

Service workers avoid strike

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


The ball in Times Square may have dropped, but the bargaining unit representing the 32BJ Union did not drop the ball on worker contract negotiations.

After several days of meetings between the union and the Realty Advisory Board, the two groups came to a consensus — improving the contracts for over 22,000 citywide service workers and avoiding a strike.

The 32BJ Union announced on Friday, December 30 that an agreement had been met and a strike would not occur. The new, four-year long contracts include a 5.6 percent wage increase over the lifetime of the contract as well as bonuses totaling $1,100 and complete, employer-paid family health care coverage.

“The new contract is not just an important victory for office cleaners and their families, but for our economy and our city,” said Hector Figueroa, secretary-treasurer of 32BJ. “In these tough times the workers who keep New York City’s corporate offices and landmark buildings clean and well maintained have stood up for the good middle class jobs our economy and our city needs.”

Before a decision was made, workers gathered on Wall Street, outside Grand Central Station and at the Grace Building on Thursday, December 29 to march past their worksites in response to the contract negotiations. Workers took to the streets, spreading awareness about the previously impending strike. Because of the new agreement, however, a strike is no longer in play.

Strike averted

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

We applaud the efforts of the 32BJ Union and the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (RAB) in averting the potential strike of over 22,000 service workers, including office cleaners.

Queens is home to the largest population of these workers, and in avoiding a strike, we feel the economy of the borough, as well as the morale of these employees, will benefit.

The new, four-year contracts will see an increase of 5.6 percent in salaries and workers will continue to receive full health coverage for their familes, as well as bonuses.

The union and the Board helped to start the New Year off right for these people and their loved ones.

[UPDATE] New York City office cleaners avoid strike

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


[UPDATE #2] As New York City rang in the New Year, thousands of citywide workers celebrated their new and improved contracts. Negotiations concluded with an agreement to follow new four-year contracts for over 22,000 New York City office cleaners. The contracts include a 5.6 percent wage increase and bonuses totaling $1,100 as well as full employer-paid family health care coverage.

[UPDATE] Workers gathered on Wall Street, outside Grand Central Station and at the Grace Building on Thursday, December 29 to march past their worksites in response to the current contract negotiations.

The clock may not be the only thing striking at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Beginning January 1, 2012, the contracts of 22,000 citywide commercial building service employees expire.

Negotiations commenced on Wednesday, December 28 between the bargaining unit acting on behalf of the 32BJ Union and the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (RAB), the association that represents major building owners, such as the proprietors of the Time Warner Building and the Empire State Building. While workers are hoping to reach an agreement at the bargaining table, they voted to call a strike if necessary.

“Because we are a few days away from deadline, it doesn’t look good,” said 32BJ Union spokesperson Kwame Abasi Patterson. “We are prepared to strike.”

Patterson alleges that workers are looking for adjustments in salary, increasing in line with inflation, as well as affordable family health care. According to Patterson, the RAB is considering instating a “two-tier” system in which current workers’ salaries will remain at $47,000 annually and new employees will receive lower wages, a tactic Patterson calls a “back-door attack on current workers,” and one the union refuses to entertain.

The RAB alleges New York City’s commercial building service employees are the highest paid in the country, also receiving generous benefit packages and full-family health care.

On December 21, 2011, RAB issued a statement from organization president Howard Rothschild, asserting his support of the city’s workers and standing by the benefits provided for them.

“For decades, the New York City real estate industry has created hundreds of thousands of high-paying, unionized and private-sector jobs as well as being the largest tax revenue stream in the city. We’ve presented the union with a fair package of proposals and we hope they will continue to come to the bargaining table in good faith.”

While most of the office buildings in question are located in Manhattan, Queens is home to the largest population of workers.

“[This issue] speaks directly to the community,” said Patterson. “This doesn’t just affect Manhattan.”

Long-time office cleaner and Astoria resident Sadila Mrkulic feels hurt by the negotiations and insists that current compensation is not enough to cover the basic costs of caring for a family and paying the bills. The single mother raised four children on an office cleaner’s salary, dedicating three weeks pay to rent and the fourth to purchasing groceries each month. She now supports her daughter and 15-month-old grandson.

“I feel we are not fairly treated,” said Mrkulic. “I hope [both parties] come to a conclusion on what’s fair. We are hardworking people – we are grateful that we have jobs.”

Mrkulic fears that after 40 years of employment, the “two-tier” initiative could force her out of a job. As an older worker, Mrkulic has “no doubts” that this system is designed to lay off older employees, making room for younger ones willing to accept lower salaries and fewer benefits.