March 6, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Social service workers picketed outside Federation Employment & Guidance Services despite blizzard-like conditions on Thursday afternoon to protest and express their anger at the social services agency for closing its doors after 81 years of service because of mismanagement.
On Monday we interviewed Lorraine Guest, president of AFSCME District Council 1707’s Local 215’s president, who represents about 1,400 members at FEGS and who face layoffs because they aren’t guaranteed new jobs at the agencies that’ll be taking over FEGS’ contracts.
In the accompanying video, we interviewed two FEGS’ workers to find out what are they going to do after March 31, the day all FEGS’ employees are to be laid off.
Olga Dejuana has worked at FEGS for the past ten years; she said she was sad not only for herself, but for all the clients she’s been working with.
“We provided a great service for 10 years. I [worked] as a work-readiness instructor, so I prepare clients to become self-sufficient by finding jobs, [helping] with resume development [and] interviewing skills,” said Dejuana.
She plans on applying for a new job with one of the other agencies, but she’s concerned because there’s no guarantee she’ll get the job.
“I’m 66-years old and it’s going to be hard for me to find another job at this age.”
When we asked her what she liked best about her job, she started to cry.
“When clients would come back and tell me that they got a job and they were really happy with the help that I gave them; that was the most satisfying part of my job,” Dejuana said.
Marvin Almengor has worked at FEGS for 20 years teaching clients with development disabilities life-learning and independent-living skills. When he heard that FEGS was closing, he was shocked.
“I was also angry because I also have a disability; I had polio when I was a kid. We’ve been doing this job for a long time. We did everything we’ve always been asked to do. We gave them 110 and 120 percent and now FEGS wants to close its doors. It’s just unconscionable,” said Almengor.
We asked him what he plans to do after March 31.
“Hopefully, the agency taking us over, United Cerebral Palsy, they’ll understand what we’re going through and consider us. If not, I’ll shop my resume. But after 20 years of doing the right things I have to start all over again. But I’ll do what I have to do; whatever it takes,” said Almengor.
He reminded us of what Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who suffered from polio, once said.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”