NYC AFSCME wins reinstatement for disabled workers Bloomberg fired

NEW YORK (PAI) — Eleven disabled New York City workers, whom former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid off (fired) will get their jobs back, thanks to their AFSCME local. And 40 more may be following them back onto the city’s payroll.

That’s because a local judge ordered the city’s Administration for Children’s Services and the Health Department to reinstate workers it fired in 2011 and 2012, with up to three years of back pay each, AFSCME Local 1549 reported in early April.

AFSCME Local 1113 has a similar reinstatement lawsuit pending in the state Supreme Court’s appellate division on behalf of 40 disabled workers whom the Bloomberg administration canned from the city Finance Department. AFSCME District Council 37, which includes both locals, says both layoffs violate the city’s Human Rights Law.

The wins are important because they show unions prevent governments from getting away with job discrimination against the disabled. Federal data show 14.5 percent of workers with disabilities were jobless in April. The U.S. rate was 6.7 percent. There are so many jobless dis-abled that their unemployment alone pushed the U.S. figure up by 0.2 percent that month.

“We did not give up and these members never gave up,” said Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez of the 11 workers who should get their jobs back. “Laying off these disabled Clerical Associates was a mean-spirited blow that struck at their sense of independence,” added District Council 37 Clerical Division Director Renee Gainer.

“The city singled out the most vulnerable, the disabled, and we were outraged. The city refused to accept they are protected, but we refused to give in,” said DC 37 Assistant General Counsel Jesse Gribben.

The union’s grievance, and both lawsuits, say New York City broke job security provisions of its citywide contract by firing the workers, excluding them from recall lists and failing to recall them. A top-level arbitrator reinstated the 11 workers, but the city took the case to court, and lost, there, too. The arbitrator called the city’s arguments “specious.”

The contract lets disabled workers attain civil service status without taking competitive exams. The union said the 11 workers were “qualified and able to perform their duties despite physical or mental disabilities that may include deafness, blindness, diabetes or HIV. Some have worked for decades as Clerical Associates for about $35,000 a year.”

“This is a strong victory for DC 37 and for our local,” Rodriguez said. “We stand by every member.” Added Gainer: “I have worked with these members. They are overwhelmed by this decision and are forever grateful to this union for winning their jobs back.” And Gribben said the union is “glad to see these members return to work with back pay. DC 37 has again prevailed against injustice.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.