By Jeremy Walsh
Workers at a Queensâˆ’based special education day care program voted to join a union earlier this year, only to face intimidation from their bosses, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (Dâˆ’Forest Hills), union officials and members said last week.
Since May, management at Books and Rattles, which has facilities in five Queens neighborhoods, including Middle Village and Jamaica, have demoted, threatened and intimidated workers in order to discourage proâˆ’union actions, Weiner said. Now those workers are calling for a contract with improved wages and benefits.
“We want decent benefits and working conditions, but ever since we started organizing, managers have been doing everything they can to intimidate and terrify us,” said Debbie King, an administrative assistant at Books and Rattles. “People have been demoted or fired for supporting the union and standing up for their rights. It’s just plain wrong.”
Representatives from Books and Rattles did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time Tuesday night.
After the workers voted in favor of joining the Communications Workers of America Local 1180, the company fired 18 workers, later rehiring some of them only to fire others, Weiner said at a news conference in his office.
Since then Books and Rattles management has refused to meet the workers’ demands for decent wages, benefits and working conditions, Weiner said.
A source close to the situation said negotiations were ongoing but slow. The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint alleging Books and Rattles violated federal labor law by not negotiating with the new union before laying off the 18 workers. A hearing is scheduled for the case in Brooklyn Dec. 9.
Al Blyer, regional director for the NLRB, said the union hopes Books and Rattles settles the case before then.
Workers at the facility include teachers, assistant teachers, clerical workers and therapists at five locations. Assistant teachers make as little as $8 an hour with no health care or other benefits, Weiner said.
Even employees eligible for the Books and Rattle’s health care plan must pay $240 per month, outâˆ’ofâˆ’pocket costs to enroll in the plan, which most of the employees cannot afford, Weiner said.
“Books and Rattles may think it can get away with treating its workers badly and refusing to bargain in good faith, but the power of the CWA national union will be brought to bear. We will not allow Books and Rattles to take advantage of our members,” said Chris Shelton, vice president of CWA District 1.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 154.