Teamsters, Local Workers Speak Out at Legislature, Call On Long Island Pols to Help Stop “Another Clare Rose”
Suffolk County Politicians Respond by Prepping Letter of Support
Will Ask Company to Bargain with, Instead of Replace Long Time Employees
Yesterday afternoon, a group of Long Island workers took to the mic at a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature to protest their employer’s plans to permanently replace them. They were joined by representatives from the Long Island Federation of Labor, The Working Families Party, and leadership from the workers’ union, Teamsters Local 814.
The contingent specifically thanked Presiding Officer DuWayne Greogry (D-15th), Kevin McCaffrey (R-14th), Kate Browning (D-3rd), and Steve Stern (D-16th) for helping pressure Farmingdale-based office furniture dealer Waldner’s Business Environments to return to the bargaining table. Stern, it should be noted, is the husband of Waldner’s CEO Meredith Waldner Stern and recently communicated with the Long Island Federation of Labor that he understood the company’s plan would involve placing current Waldner’s workers into other jobs with Teamster carriers.
Legislator Kate Browning (D-3rd) was at the hearing yesterday and says she was deeply moved by the testimony of the Teamster members. “You can’t just put working families out on the street like that, especially after they’ve sacrificed to make you successful,” she said. “Waldner’s has an obligation to its employees,” she adds, “And you don’t honor that obligation by replacing them, you honor that by bargaining with them,” concludes Browning.
Unfortunately, despite years of profitability and a good working relationship with Teamsters Local 814, management at the furniture company has refused to bargain a new contract for their long-time union employees and instead has decided to permanently replace them with sub-contractors. The company has even refused to make a counter offer and is moving ahead with its plans to terminate all of their drivers, helpers and warehousemen starting on June 30th.
“Another family business where the second generation turns their back on the very workers who have helped make the company successful,” says George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16. “It’s another Clare Rose” he says. But he adds “just like at Clare Rose the union and the community will stand behind the workers, and we will not relent until the company comes back to the table with a fair offer.”
To date, despite pleas from their employees, and calls from both major customers and Long Island elected officials — including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who according to a statement from his office, has reached out to the company and still hopes he can bring them back to the bargaining table to resolve the dispute — Waldner’s has refused to even meet with the union to broker a settlement that will keep good, union jobs on Long Island.
“This is union busting, plain and simple,” said Roger Clayman, Executive Director of the Long Island Federation of Labor. “We call on the elected leaders in the Suffolk County Legislature to stand with Teamsters Local 814 and tell Waldner’s to stop immediately its plans to permanently replace its unionized workforce without bargaining,” he said.
814 Shop Steward and 33 year employee Kevin Roach says ”All we want is to keep working for the company. Many of us have given the better part of our lives to help make them successful and all we want is to keep our jobs so we can keep providing for our families.”
Suffolk County Legislator and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, who has also been active in pushing for a resolution, also released this statement in support: “Having grown up in a union household I understand the value that unions have for middle class families here on Long Island. I have personally intervened in this matter in hopes of a solution that works for all parties involved. I remain confident that a solution that protects the workers and gives the company what it needs can still happen.”
The union maintains that they are committed to bargaining a fair contract for both sides and has repeatedly expressed that they would be willing to consider any issues Waldner’s management would bring to the table. “The problem is”, says Jason Ide, President of Teamsters Local 814 “there is no table — Waldners won’t even sit down to discuss a new contract.” “We’re willing to bargain,” adds Ide “but we’re also prepared to fight.”
According to Ide, 814 has already received many expressions of support for the workers from a range of Waldner’s clients. The union intends to publicize the company’s anti-worker actions and will be asking all socially responsible companies, institutions etc. to do business elsewhere until the dispute is settled.