April 23, 2014
By Stephanie West
New York, NY – In an important decision for labor unions and workers across the country, a judge ordered New York City to reinstate 11 members of Local 1549 of District Council 37, AFSCME, with up to three years of back pay. These workers were fired in 2011 and 2012.
DC 37 has been aggressive in monitoring job discrimination incidents against the disabled. According to the union New York City broke job security provisions of its citywide contract by firing the workers, excluding them from recall lists and failing to recall them. While an arbitrator reinstated the 11 workers, the city insisted on taking the case to court, and lost.
"We did not give up and these members never gave up," said Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez of the 11 workers who should get their jobs back. "Laying off these disabled Clerical Associates was a mean-spirited blow that struck at their sense of independence," added District Council 37 Clerical Division Director Renee Gainer.
The contract lets disabled workers attain civil service status without taking competitive exams. The union said the 11 workers were "qualified and able to perform their duties despite physical or mental disabilities that may include deafness, blindness, diabetes or HIV. Some have worked for decades as Clerical Associates for about $35,000 a year."
"The city singled out the most vulnerable, the disabled, and we were outraged. The city refused to accept they are protected, but we refused to give in," said DC 37 Assistant General Counsel Jesse Gribben.