January 30, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, NY – The new management of what was Trade Fair's #10 store in Jackson Heights is blaming a "demanding" union for not following through and hiring about 50 workers left jobless after the supermarket's previous owner abruptly sold the store in December amidst mounting violations and ongoing labor disputes.
On Wednesday morning, angry elected officials joined members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW in delivering a petition to Global Market owner Mohommed Haque. The petition included the signatures of over 500 area residents who have pledged to boycott the new supermarket located at 75-07 37th Avenue if the former Trad Fair employees are not hired back.
"They are a perfect fit for this store, but [Haque] will not hire them," said Joe Fontano, Local 338 political affairs and communications director. "And the question is why not?
Although the union says that Haque has cut off all communications with them, both sides were talking. And just a few weeks ago, Haque actually distributed Global Market job applications to former Trade Fair workers picketing outside the 37th Avenue store.
Sam Ali, a manager at Global Market told LaborPress on Wednesday that the store has hired about 25 non-union workers and would attempt to open its doors on Thursday.
When asked if Global Market would still consider hiring the former Trade Fair workers, the manager said that his company needs to "access the business and see if it is strong enough to take care of all these union expenses."
"We're concerned [about a possible boycott]," Ali said. "But I heard that they tried to reach an agreement with the union before, but the union was so demanding. [The owner ] is scared that the building is not going to be able to afford all of those expenses. At at the end of the day, if the owner does not make money, why open the store?"
Before Haque purchased the store late last year, it was part of Frank Jaber's hugely successful Trade Fair Supermarket chain and highly-favored among Jackson Heights consumers.
Rafael Polanco, 62, worked in the Deli Department for 14 years before getting the ax. He is now scraping by on rapidly evaporating unemployment insurance. The former Trade Fair worker submitted a job applications to Global Market, but never received a reply. Recently, Polanco again inquired about a obtaining a position at Global Market, but was told that the new store had already hired other people.
"Just give me my job back," Polanco said. "That's all I need."
Kate Meckler, Local 342 UFCW director of communications, called Global Market's actions "deplorable."
"There is no logical reason not to hire back the original workers under a union contract who have served the community of Jackson Heights for years," Meckler said. "They know the customers – what they like to buy and eat – and even know their family members."
According to Fontano, Haque had, indeed, given early indications that he wanted to amicably work out the dispute that Trade Fair Boss Frank Jaber created when he shut the doors and walked away.
"But he didn't hire a single worker," Fontano said. "Now, he's ready to open with all of these folks on the bench who have long served the community and know how this store operates."
In contrast, Ali conceded that only "about 60 percent" of the workers that have been hired to operate Global Market are "professional."
"Not professional enough – but we filled up all the positions," the manager said.
Jackson Heights community activist Danny Katch said that many shoppers in the neighborhood are now absolutely turned off.
"What happened to the Trade Fair workers is just wrong and a lot of people in this neighborhood don't want to shop at the new store until the owner rights that wrong by hiring the terminated workers and respecting their right to union representation," Katch said