March 9, 2015
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY -The financial implosion of the once venerable Federation Employment and Guidance Service [FEGS] after 80 years in operation, has left the fate 1,400 unionized workers in limbo, and thousands of client cases unresolved. But District Council 1707 continues to engage city officials in search of a solution — as well as plan for regular demonstrations to maintain awareness about the crisis.
On March 5, during one of the most intense snow storms of the season, 50 FEGS employees banded together and marched in front of the organization's NYC headquarters, shaking off both the sticking snow and freezing temperatures. The workers marched and loudly chanted to passersby and FEGS management.
“Weather is not our concern today,” said Social Service Employees Local 215 President Lorraine Guest. “We are concerned about the quality and continuity of care for our consumers and the jobs of our members.”
DC 1707 Executive Director Victoria Mitchell and other union officers, FEGS activists, DC 37 members, and representatives of the New York City Central Labor Council, also joined Guest in the demonstration.
“We knew the snow storm was coming, but this issue is bigger than any one-day storm,” Mitchell said. “The lives of 1,400 members are at stake.”
As result of continued discussions between city officials and the leadership of DC 1707, Steven Banks, commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, sent a March 3, letter to the three agencies now responsible for FEGS cases, telling them in part, ”Your efforts will enable us to continue to provide essential services to our clients when FEGS ceases operations later this month”…. We therefore expect that each of your organizations will consider these FEGS employees when you are hiring staff to meet the requirements of the contracts you are assuming.”
Clearly, the city is now supporting the re-hiring of the former FEGS employees. However, despite FEGS employees having had worked with clients for years, and amassing extensive experience and skill, the agencies are not cooperating – and are, in fact, resisting the hiring of these unionized professionals. Instead, it appears that the companies the city has selected to service FEGS' clientele would rather hire less qualified, inexperienced workers at lower salaries.
That is intolerable.
FEGS served more than 100,000 clients and employed 2,000 staffers. About 1,400 workers were organized by Local 215 of District Council 1707 AFSCME