February 12, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY -The shattered remains of what’s ever left of the financially stricken Federation for Employment & Guidance Services [FEGS], is about to be divvied up between as many as 13 different new agencies – and existing staffers fear they’re going to be the deal’s biggest losers.
Marvin Almengor, a member of Local 215’s negotiating committee, has spent virtually his entire 20-year career at FEGS’ Grand Concourse facility in the Bronx. A polio survivor, the 53-year-old Almengor feels a special commitment to the developmentally disabled adults he helps to successfully navigate the world independently.
This week, however, Almengor says he learned about FEGS' impending split, and plans for UCP – United Cerebral Palsy – to soon take over operations at the Poe Building where he’s worked since 1994.
UCP did not respond to requests for comment, but Almengor fears that he and his co-workers face the grim possibility of having to reapply for their own jobs at dramatically reduced salaries and no consideration for the seniority they’ve built up over the years.
“It could all be gone in the blink of the eye,” Almengor told LaborPress. “What hurts me the most is that we, the employees, did everything right. We did everything by the book. We went above and beyond the call of duty. We took clients to the ER in the middle of the night. We did everything. And now, because of executive mismanagement, or whatever happened here, we’re being screwed around.”
The offices of both the Manhattan district attorney and the state attorney general, are reportedly investigating FEGS’ financial meltdown. In December, staffers along with the rest of the public, learned that the venerable 80-year-old institution – one of the largest Jewish charitable groups in the U.S. – was at least $20 million in debt.
The ensuing shutdown and reported transformation is expected to occur in the next few months. Many staffers have already been dealt pink slips.
Despite the mysterous shortfall, FEGS was operating under a $250 million budget, and paying administrators astronomically high six-figure salaries.
Almengor, in contrast, earns just over $40,000 a year. His union successfully nailed down a three-year contract with management over the summer. He says that at no time during the preceding negotiation process did management ever indicate that FEGS was is serious trouble.
“They gave us the same old spiel that [FEGS] was in distress financially – but they’ve always said that,” Almengor says. “They never said how severe, or how dire the situation actually was. They are effectively dissolving FEGS and they’re going to let other agencies gobble it up. I never in my life thought that this could happen.”
According to Almengor, administrators also kept the union in the dark regarding FEGS’ impending dissolution.
“FEGS did everything without consulting the union leadership of which I’m a part,” Almengor said. “We weren’t included in any of these discussions, they just up and did it.”
Although the exact nature of FEGS’ financial woes have yet to be determined, Almengor surmises that the charity overextended itself and took on a number of failing groups it mistakenly thought it could turn around, which drove it into the red.
“I also suspect that there were hands in the cookie jar,” Almengor says.
With his future and the future of his colleagues in doubt, Almengor is hoping that some wealthy benefactor might swoop in and salvage FEGS.
“We’re not millionaires,” Almengor says. “We’re not looking to be millionaires. We want to serve our population the way we’ve always done. What has happened is not right.”