April 3, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Long Island City, NY – Local 342 butchers locked out of nine Trade Fair supermarkets in Queens since March 13, welcomed another ally in their battle against management this week, when New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer joined a rally outside 22-20 36th Avenue. And he wasn’t alone – the 26th District representative brought his mom! (Watch Video)
“Today, I am calling on the ownership to end the lockout now,” Councilman Van Bramer said. “I am here as a city councilman because my mother was a meat wrapper, and we could afford the rent, and we could live because of these union jobs. My mother and father wanted to work, and I know that you want to work.”
But instead of preparing select cuts of lamb for loyal customers as they have for years, roughly 100 Trade Fair meat department workers spent this year’s Easter celebrations wondering when CEO Farid “Frank” Jaber would sign a fair contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers [UFCW] Local 342, and end the three-week-old lockout.
“We can make our voices heard as elected officials, joining with UFCW Local 342 and making sure that the ownership understands that we stand one-hundred-percent with the workers,” Councilman Van Bramer said. “We understand that this is not a strike but a lockout, and that we support the union’s efforts that are before the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] right now.”
Local 342 filed unfair labor practice chargers with the NLRB after employees reported examples of widespread threats, intimidation and harassment on the job.
It’s been well over a year, and Jaber and company have yet to sign a fair contract with the union. Veteran Trade Fair workers, say that management’s abuse began as soon as they started speaking out about those stalled talks.
On March 13, meat department workers attempted to return to their jobs following a brief early morning strike. But instead of accepting their unconditional offer to return to work, Trade Fair management refused to allow the workers back, insisting that they had already been “replaced.”
When asked on Monday about the ongoing stalemate between Trade Fair and its meat department workers, the management of 22-20 refused to comment. But signs outside Trade Fair outlets throughout the borough continue to blame store disruptions on “strikers.”
“To be clear, we don’t care what kinds of signs Mr. Jaber puts on the stores,” Local 342 Director of Communications Kate Meckler said. “This is not a strike any longer. You have been locked out on purpose without any regard by your boss. And no matter how they continue to spin it, we are going to be out here standing up for our rights until we all go back to work.”
Councilman Van Bramer said that he expects and hopes that the NLRB will soon rule in favor of Trade Fair workers. Until then, he vowed to use his office as a bully pulpit to rally public support for the locked out workers, and urged employees to continue their struggle for better working conditions.
“My mother may be short, but she is very strong,” Councilman Van Bramer said. “And so are you. So, keep fighting. I will keep fighting until all of you are back to work. In honor of my mother, keep fighting, and we will win.”