December 19, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, NY – The supermarket Grinch who abruptly fired more than 50 employees at Trade Fair #10 in Jackson Heights earlier this month, is proving to be just as cold-hearted as the fictional bad guy who brooded over Whoville.
Farid [Frank] Jaber, head of the Trade Fair supermarket chain, shut the doors on the popular store located at 75-07 37th Avenue during the week of December 9, without informing longtime employees that he had sold the outlet to a new owner named Mohammed Haque – and that all of the workers were now jobless.
However, records on file show that the deal between Jaber and Haque goes back at least until November 14, when Haque filed a new application with the New York State Liquor Authority to sell booze at the 75-07 37th Avenue location.
“It’s just a slimy move on Frank Jaber’s part,” said Joe Fontano, spokesperson for RWDSU Local 338, the union representing most of the axed workers. “The only reason I can think of why he did this is that he wanted to squeeze every last dime out of his workforce.”
LaborPress was at Trade Fair #10 last March, when New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm confronted managers after meat department workers complained that they were being harassed for protesting poor working conditions and stalled contract negotiations.
The following day, managers at the same Trade Fair outlet informed Local 342 union officials representing the outspoken workers, that their members were being locked out and replaced in response to a brief unfair labor practices walkout.
A long and protracted standoff ensued in which locked out workers throughout the Trade Fair supermarket chain were ultimately brought back over time. Although in many cases, under dramatically different and less-than desirable circumstances.
The now defunct Trade Fair #10 will reportedly reopen under Haque’s ownership sometime in January. In the meantime, the 50-plus workers who lost their jobs – some with decades of history with Trade Fair – face a very uncertain future this holiday season.
“Jaber is definitely the Grinch who kicked out workers before Christmas,” said Kate Meckler, communications director for Local 342.
When Jaber padlocked Trade Fair #10, Local 342 immediately called on the Queens supermarket boss to find alternative positions for meat department workers at other stores in the chain – but their urgings were unceremoniously rebuffed.
“How sickening is it that scabs [Jaber] hired to replace these workers during the lockout get to keep their jobs – and these people that have 20 or 30 years of seniority are being kicked out in the street?” said Meckler.
Both Locals 342 and 338, as well as their supporters, have been keeping the pressure on, picketing outside of the 75-07 location and calling on Haque to rehire everyone who lost their job when Jaber turned out the lights.
According to Fontano, the new supermarket owner – who also owns a Key Foods store in Brooklyn – is at least listening. New job applications where distributed to fired Trade Fair workers earlier this week.
Local 342, meanwhile, has managed to find fired meat department workers positions at other unionized shops in the borough.
Jaber still faces numerous National Labor Relations Board violations and financial judgements totaling about $2 million.