City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) threw his support behind a local union Tuesday in its labor negotiations with the Queens supermarket chain Trade Fair, going so far as to visit one of the Jackson Heights stores and speak to the employees facing loss of full-time work.
“I will not tolerate this treatment of workers in my community,” Dromm said. “My office is here to serve you.”
Dromm held a news conference with members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 342 union in which he signed a petition in support of Trade Fair’s meat department workers, which is in contract negotiations with the supermarket chain’s ownership. Trade Fair, which markets itself on carrying food native to the diverse populations in its neighborhoods, has 11 locations in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside and Richmond Hill.
Trade Fair said it had no comment on the negotiations or Dromm’s support of the union. Stores in Jackson Heights and Astoria have a sign posted about the negotiations indicating Trade Fair’s need to be competitive with non-union stores.
Kate Meckler, spokeswoman for Local 342, said the union has been bargaining for more than a year with the ownership, including Trade Fair President Frank Jabber, on behalf of 100 meat department workers across the 11 stores. Meckler said the workers want fair wages, to maintain their health care benefits and to keep their Sunday premium hours, but Jabber wants to make all full-time workers part-time and to end any wage increases.
“His proposals that he’s offered to the workers are unacceptable,” Meckler said.
Some workers say Jabber has also threatened retaliation and posted “Help Wanted” signs in some store windows.
“They say if they take any action to get their contract, they would be replaced,” said a Spanish-to-English translator on behalf of 15-year-meat department worker Milvia Lopez.
The union said workers had gone on an unfair labor practice strike at the stores Wednesday morning. They offered to come back to work later in the afternoon, but the company refused, the union said.
Employees of Trade Fair who do not work in the meat department are represented by a different union and are still under their previous contract, Meckler said.
Dromm has fought with Trade Fair in the past, particularly the location at 75-07 37th Ave. near his office, which he visited to express his support of the meat department workers. The councilman has criticized the 75th Street Trade Fair for erecting a sidewalk enclosure, which was later taken down after the supermarket received a fine from the city Department of Buildings.
He also slammed the store for allowing delivery trucks to idle outside the store after one truck driver allegedly struck the councilman and took his phone.
“Mr. Jabber thinks he’s above the law, and we’ve seen this type of behavior before,” Dromm said. “We say that he is a menace to our community.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2013 Community News Group
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