Public Employee Press
Callback at School Construction
Employees Guild Local 375 President Claude Fort, sixth from left, gathers with
localofficers, staff and members at the School Construction Authority to celebrate
the tentative call-back deal.
agreement calls for the rehiring of 67 Local 375 members laid off in 2003 and
the hiring of an additional 23 technical and professional workers.
GREGORY N. HEIRES
The union reached a tentative accord with the School
Construction Authority to recall 67 Local 375 members who were laid off in 2003.
The agreement which was awaiting a judges approval as PEP went
to press also calls for the hiring of an additional 23 professional and
technical workers at the SCA.
This is a tremendous achievement
for DC 37 and the local, said Claude Fort, president of Civil Service Technical
Guild Local 375. We have been through a long fight, but we were determined
not to let this illegal firing stand.
The 67 members from the SCAs
architecture and engineering unit were among 102 Local 375 members laid off in
2003 because of cutbacks. DC 37 vigorously opposed the job cuts, arguing that
the downsizing would undermine the SCAs ability to design and inspect school
In the lawsuit, the union charged that in carrying out the
layoffs, the SCA violated its legal obligation to use the in-house staff to perform
40 percent of design and inspection work. Years ago, Local 375 lobbied for the
40 percent rule to be included in the legislation that established the SCA. The
SCA was set up in 1988 to manage the design and renovation of capital projects
at the citys 1,400 schools and oversee the construction of new schools.
Even before the lawsuit, Local 375 had contended that staffing at the SCA
fell below the legal requirement and had pressed for years for more hiring.
37 and Local 375 leaders and negotiators meet June 30 with city officials to discuss,
rehiring of Local 375 members laid off in 2003 who did design and inspection work
at the SCA.
The employment target resulted from a series of technical
meetings among Local 375 and DC 37 officials and SCA representatives. Through
discussions, both sides came up with a complicated formula to calculate staffing
levels for the in-house design and inspection work.
I am very happy
with this agreement, which should help rebuild the design and inspection capability
of this agency, said Zygmunt (Ziggy) Jagiello, president of the locals
SCA chapter. This has been a 42-month long battle for the union, and as
chapter president, I have received countless phone calls from laid-off employees
over that period, he said. This was a very disheartening situation,
and many of the affected people couldnt find long-term employment or employment
at other city agencies.
With the help of DC 37 and Local 375, some
of the affected workers found positions at the Dept. of Design and Construction,
the Dept. of Environmental Construction and other agencies and others were
even hired as consultants at SCA. But these workers typically faced significant
salary decreases or reductions in their benefits.
A major gain in the
agreement is that rehired workers who werent lucky enough to find a new
job at a city agency should be able to buy back lost pension credit. The agreement
calls upon SCA and the union to work together to secure the passage of state legislation
to permit the pension buy-back. The DC 37 Political Action and Legislation Dept.
and the DC 37 Legal Dept. will work on the buy-back legislation.
really feel the rehiring is an important example of the positive difference a
union can make in peoples lives, Fort said. The layoffs were
an injustice that disrupted lives. The union fought for these workers and won
back their jobs.
Attorneys Robert Burzichelli and Harry Greenberg
handled the lawsuit. With the support of Executive Director Lillian Roberts and
Associate Director Oliver Gray, the union team led by Fort included Jagiello and
Local 375 members Joe Miraglia, the chapter secretary, and Chapter Treasurer Ramesh
Patel and Peter Percudani at the SCA; General Counsel Eddie Demmings and Associate
General Counsel Mary OConnell of DC 37 Legal Dept.; Director Dennis Sullivan
and Assistant Director Frank Burns of the Research and Negotiations Dept.; Director
Stephanie Velez, Assistant Directors Hector Coto and Maynard Anderson of the Professional
Division, as well as Local 375 1st Vice President Jon Forster, 2nd Vice President
Michelle Keller and advisor Leon Soffin.
This victory shows that
once youre a member, you will always be part of the DC 37 family, even if
you are no longer on the city payroll, Roberts said. These 67 recalled
workers are a very special group who will ensure that the SCA guarantees that
public schools are structurally sound.