June 26, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, NY – Trade Fair Meat Department employees locked out of their jobs following a brief strike back on March 13 may have all returned to work in at least some capacity, but management must now answer for its actions – the National Labor Relations Board has finally issued an official complaint against the Queens supermarket chain finding evidence the company committed a spate of unfair labor practice violations ranging from improper surveillance to assault.
“Although this legal process has been lengthy, we’re very pleased to see that the NLRB is prepared to take action against Trade Fair’s wrongful actions,” said Kate Meckler, UFCW Local 342 communications director. “And the most important part of this process is that, as part of the complaint, the NLRB will be asking an administrative law judge to order Trade Fair to make the employees whole. That can include retroactive pay for all wages lost by our members due to the illegal lockout, as well as any other actions needed to remedy the ULPs committed. Our members deserve this after standing so strong and together during the entire length of this illegal lockout.”
According to the NLRB, there is sufficient evidence that Trade Fair CEO Farid Jaber and his management team engaged in the following: improper surveillance of union activities; improper interrogation of employees about union activities; improper suspensions and terminations of employees due to participation in union activities; threats of termination for employees participating in union activities; threats to close stores if employees decided to picket; harassment of employees and union staff; assault on union representatives and illegally locking out employees and not restoring them to equivalent status after they were returned to their jobs.
LaborPress was there in March when New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm confronted managers at the Trade Fair outlet located at 75-07 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights over unfair labor practice issues, and later when management informed longtime workers that they had been unceremoniously “replaced.”
"Mr. Jaber and the management of Trade Fair have gotten away with far too much for far too long," Councilman Dromm said. "I am not surprised to know that the NLRB has issued a complaint and I will continue to do everything I can to make sure these hard working men and women get the justice they deserve."
Trade Fair management has until the first week in July to answer the official NLRB complaint in writing. A hearing in front of an administrative law judge is looming should the supermarket chain fail to resolve the case with the union.
“The National Labor Relation Board’s official complaint against Trade Fair’s unsatisfactory labor practices is a clear sign that we are one step closer toward achieving justice for the members of UFCW Local 342,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I will continue to stand with UFCW workers until they are granted the working conditions they deserve.”
Locked out Trade Fair workers – many with decades of history with the company – have enjoyed the support of many in the New York City Council, including Speaker Christine Quinn.
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras called Trade Fair management’s conduct “shameful and appalling.”
“After facing intimidation tactics and an unfair lockout, these hard-working employees now have to deal with yet another obstacle as they continue to receive unfair pay cuts and hour reductions," Councilwoman Ferreras said. "Trade Fair management needs to stop this unfair behavior once and for all. I am proud to support these workers and applaud the National Labor Relations Board for stepping in to protect their rights. It is time for Trade Fair to be held accountable and brought to justice for their unacceptable and unlawful practices.”
In all, the Trade Fair lockout affected some 100 workers around the borough. Sometime around late April, management quietly began taking some of them back – but under drastically altered working conditions. Local 342 still has additional charges against pending against Trade Fair management. The company has also filed charges of its own which the union dismisses.