April 27, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, New York – Locked out Trade Fair supermarket workers have been demonstrating outside the chain’s nine stores for more than six weeks. But on Friday, they attracted the attention of New York City Council Speaker and mayoral contender Christine Quinn, who stopped by Trade Fair store number 10, in Jackson Heights to put CEO Farid “Frank” Jaber on notice. (Watch Video)
“Your boss had no right to lock you out,” Quinn told ousted meat department employees rallying in front 75-07 37th Avenue. “He may think that he’s going to get away with this, and nobody in city government or in the state government is going to notice. But I can tell you that [Councilman] Danny [Dromm] has made sure that is not the case. The eyes of City Hall are on this Fair Trade and his other locations.”
About 100 Fair Trade meat department workers were locked out of their jobs on March 13 after staging a brief strike to protest a litany of alleged unfair labor practices.
Workers with decades of experience working with the supermarket chain, say that they suddenly became the targets of managerial abuse and harassment after they started speaking out about stalled contract negotiations.
United Food and Commercial Workers [UFCW] Local 342, the union representing locked out Trade Fair workers, subsequently filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
Jaber has since begun taking back a limited number of locked out workers after initially saying that they had all been replaced. Those recalled, however, have had their pay cut, hours reduced, job titles altered and workplaces switched.
The union contends that those actions are illegal, and that Trade Fair management is violating the law.
Speaker Quinn promised workers that her office would intervene on their behalf, and work to secure a meeting with Fair Trade’s CEO.
“We’re going to make sure that we follow up and demand a meeting," Speaker Quinn said. "Until you’re allowed to go back to work, do your job and make the salaries you want to make to take care of yourselves and your families."
Locked out workers also garnered vocal support from the Alliance of South Asian American Labor [ASAAL] and Local 338.
“We’re here today in solidarity with all of you our brothers and sisters of Local 342,” Local 338 representative Nikki Kateman said. “We’re going to stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder now, and until you are all back to work. We are going to demand that Trade Fair end this illegal lockout, get you back to work serving this community, and supporting your families. The time is now.”
Local 338 represents Trade Fair employees who work the store’s “front end.” Local 338 members are presently under contract with Trade Fair, but that agreement expires next year – meaning that Jaber could soon be facing a similar dispute with more of his employees.
New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm urged Queens shoppers to steer clear of Trade Fair until the present labor dispute is finally resolved.
“We have to explain to our neighbors why it’s so important not to support Trade Fair while our workers are out on strike, or being locked out,” Councilman Dromm said.