This week in labor

Ariana Costakes

A Park Slope coffee shop is up and running again after the entire staff resigned on April 9th in protest of working conditions under co-owner Carol McLaughlin. The workers at Gorilla Coffee were not unionized so the owners simply hired all new staff and reopened yesterday.

Former employees described the workplace under McLaughlin as a “perpetually malicious, hostile and demeaning work environment” (NYT). Owner Darleen Scherer admitted McLaughlin ran the cafe “like a drill sargent” but said she was unaware that her employees were unhappy. Scherer said she paid her staff fairly and provided benefits.

“If they had made it clear that my coaching technique was not being received well, I could have changed it,” Ms. McLaughlin told the New York Times.

The cafe’s owners used the time it took to hire new staff to refinish floors and repair appliances.


Immigration rally in Queens

A rally was held in Queens today after a new immigration law was passed in Arizona. Under the new law, immigrants have to carry their documents with them and police are given the power to make an arrest if they think immigrants are here illegally. There is no such law in New York…..yet. But immigrants fear that it will follow Arizona’s lead and that could mean trouble – which is why they held a rally. They are hoping to get President Obama’s attention. After more than a year in office, President Obama have not done anything for immigrants as he had promised. Note to President Obama: ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS!

John Jay Accused of Immigration Discrimination

The New York Times has recently reported that the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice, claiming that the college took part in job discrimination against non-citizens who are authorized to work in the U.S.

Allegedly, the college violated a stipulation of the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act by demanding additional work authorization from at least 103 non-citizens since 2007, instead of accepting their work-eligibility documents. The legislation prohibits employers from enforcing different job verification standards on non-citizens than on citizens, but according to the complaints filed, John Jay has been requesting green cards in addition to unrestricted driver licenses and Social Security cards, and has been firing employees if they didn’t comply. The suit seeks penalties of $1100 per individual, as well as additional compensation.

This Week in Labor

Ariana Costakes

One labor issue that has many wealthy city residents up-in-arms is the prospect of a city-wide doorman strike.  The union representing city doormen (and doorwomen?), the Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, say over 30,000 workers in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island will strike if their contract is not renewed.  Last Tuesday over 10,000 workers marched through the Upper East Side to make their demands known. Last Thursday union members entered negotiations with the Rental Advisory Board in the hopes of averting a strike. I have been unable to find out if there was a decisive outcome or not. I will be on the look-out for updates.

Crime Victim Receives Visa Aid from Police Commissioner

According to a recent report, an undocumented Brooklyn crime victim has gained the support of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in the fight for her naturalization. Trinidad native Akia Power survived a horrific crime as a child, when her estranged father burst into her family’s apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, shot her and her mother, and killed her infant brother, before taking his own life. Having survived the shooting, Power has been unable to prove her immigration status since. Kelly will lend a helping hand in the matter, and says that he will request for Power to receive a special “U-Visa,” reserved for crime victims who help the police force catch or prosecute the offenders.

HBO Series Filming on Brooklyn College Campus

Once again the Brooklyn College campus was bombarded by film equipment and not from its film department.  The HBO series “Bored To Death” was filming on the Quad on April 12.

The series is created by author Jonathan Ames and its main character is about a fictional version of writer Jonathan Ames played by Jason Schwartzman.

” Bored to Death” follows the fictional Ames on misadventures as he pursues his dream of impersonating his heroes from his favorite private detective novels and neglects the reality of being a writer.

The series is loosely based in Carroll Gardens and is primarily shot near the Fort Greene part of Brooklyn.  It just so happens it was shooting in the Flatbush area this week.

Sewage workers update

The Local 1320 of District Council 37 (municipal sewage workers) and Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ended negotiations today with the city over wages that hadn’t been increased in over 15 years.  Most workers will receive a raise of 43-63 percent.  Workers sacrificed sick days in the negotiations to enable the pay raises. Plant managers, who have gone the longest without wage increases, and some of whom make less than the workers they supervise, will receive as much as 83 percent increase.

The New York Times quoted Mayor Bloomberg as saying of the workers: “They are the backbone of a system every New Yorker relies on every day, and now they can focus on their critical work, instead of worrying about a protracted contract dispute.”

The wages for sewage workers will increase from $21.44 an hour to $34.97.  Wages for plant managers will increase from $31.04 an hour to $53.99.