FQM, Company That Assigned Black Employee To Heavy-Lifting Work After Heart Surgery, Continues Abuse, Other Employees Say
â€¨The union president Mike Fishman must get directly involved to get to the bottom of these grievances. He should stop acting like an emperor, before the union members strip him of his clothes. He can remain silent if he so wishes but The Black Star News will keep writing about the mistreatment of the employees and asking these questions for as long as it takes.â€¨â€¨
TRINITY and 32BJ: Fish Rotten From The Top?
Message to TRINITY's Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper and Jason Pizer; and to and 32BJ's Mike Fishman.â€¨â€¨
There is something rotten in Denmark.
It's very wrong when a company keeps violating the law by wrongfully suspending its employees without pay and when the workers' union fails to stand up and protect their rights.â€¨â€¨ As readers who have followed The Black Star News's series on the saga of employees at TRINITY church-owned buildings know, the church's managing company, FQM/Alliance, routinely suspends some of its workers for the most trivial, unlawful and even cruel reasons.â€¨â€¨
One employee Keith Cummings was suspended without pay even though his wife called to inform management that he was delayed in Jamaica on a visa issue; he later produced documentation, but hasn't yet received the three months wages he lost. Later, he had open heart surgery: when he was restored to work, he was re-assigned to heavy lifting, leading him to suspect someone wanted him six feet under. The Black Star News is working on the cases of several other employees who alleged that they too have been wrongfully suspended. There seems to be a consistent pattern, raising questions whether routine suspensions are being abused: to save the company money; or, to remove people so that positions can be
created for their relatives and friends, people that have no prior
experience in this field and hold no certifications, current employees contend. Another worker, Prince Valcarcel, also a 32BJ union member was wrongfully locked out of his workplace, at 100 Avenue of the Americas where he was a building engineer, going on three years now. His ordeal was instigated by a manager, Vinny Petta, who allegedly hated Black employees. That manager was subsequently fired; Valcarcel has yet to be returned to his job by FQM/Alliance, which has ignored several requests for interviews by The Black Star News. â€¨â€¨FQM/Alliance acts with arrogance and impunity. As long as its top managers pay themselves fat salaries, they believe they can abuse the little guys, step on employees' necks with their boots and keep getting away with it.â€¨â€¨FQM/Alliance even ignores agreements that it has signed. The company had underpaid some employees who had engineer’s certification for years.
FQM, Local 32BJ and one such underpaid worker, Melvin Munoz, signed an agreement on January 17, 2009 for the employee to recover his wages. "Munoz shall receive the wage rate paid to Engineers under the Realty Advisory Board (RAB) Agreement covering licensed engineers, effective January 1, 2009, in full and final settlement of OCA Case No. 21816," reads the agreement, referring to Munoz's grievance complaint.â€¨â€¨"FQM shall pay to Munoz any retroactive pay due to him as of January 1, 2009, within two weeks of this agreement," the agreement adds.
More than 15 months later, Munoz is still waiting for his check. He estimates he is owed about $100,000; that's before interest.â€¨â€¨Another agreement FQM/Alliance continues to ignore involves Antonio Lanzarotta. After he complained about abusive work conditions affecting many employees, and openly speaking out and standing up for the discrimination against Prince Valcarcel, the company fired him last year. When 32BJ refused to help him, he hired an outside lawyer and an agreement was reached between him and FQM/Alliance through the National Labor Review Board (NLRB). The settlement agreement negotiated was signed off by FQM's executive vice president, Robert Abreu, on February 15, 2011. The agreement authorizes Lanzarotta and all other workers to openly communicate directly with TRINITY executives and members of the media.â€¨â€¨
The company continues to violate this agreement and Lanzarotta has been suspended two times since the deal was signed. The most recent suspension without pay, for two days, occurred on April 2, 2012. He was suspended through a letter handed to him by Colleen McDonald, project manager/vice president at FQM/Alliance. Lanzarotta was suspended for copying to TRINITY managers building/work-related e-mail messages that he sends to his supervisor at the building where he works, 200 Hudson Street. â€¨â€¨
This newspaper has contacted 32BJ after the most recent suspension. Maia Davis, a spokesperson tells The Black Star, "We believe this suspension is unjust, and we are preparing to file a complaint to fight it."â€¨â€¨But this is not enough. FQM/Alliance acts with complete arrogance without any concern about the union. This is because the union has developed a track record of not vigorously fighting for its dues-paying members. This is a U.S. presidential election year and all eyes will be focused on unions.â€¨â€¨
Unions are very critical in protecting the rights of workers throughout the United States and unions are under attacks in several states, including in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey and right here in New York State.â€¨â€¨That does not mean unions have to abandon their responsibilities and obligations to dues-paying members. How could a man who just had heart surgery be suspended and then when he returns to work be re-assigned by FQM/Alliance to an assignment that involves heavy-lifting with no action from the union? Where is his three months' backpay? â€¨â€¨How can an employee be owed more than $100,000 with no action from the union? How can an employee be unlawfully locked out of his place employment going on three years now with no pay? How can an employee be periodically suspended when the NLRB has ruled that his right to free speech is protected and when he's standing up for other workers?â€¨ â€¨The union president Mike Fishman must get directly involved to get to the bottom of these grievances. He should stop acting like an emperor, before the union members strip him of his clothes. He can remain silent if he so wishes but The Black Star News will keep writing about the mistreatment of the employees and asking these questions for as long as it takes.â€¨â€¨
TRINITY church itself is undergoing some turmoil with the recent reports about the very high salary and the reported extravagant lifestyle of its leader â€¨Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, leading to a revolt within the board of directors.â€¨ Rev. Cooper's compensation was reportedly: worth $1.3 million in 2010, including a salary of $346,391 and deferred compensation of $507,940; he asked for a $5.5 million SoHo townhouse; and, he wanted an allowance for his Florida condo.â€¨â€¨It is ironic that the church's top official enjoys such excessive pay while employees at its properties, managed by FQM/Alliance are being routinely penalized and docked their pay through suspension and in the case of Valcarcel cut out because of a past manager's alleged racist animus.
Does TRINITY, and Trinity Real Estate, which operates its properties, including six million square feet of office space, with President Jason Pizer, condone the actions of FQM/Alliance? â€¨â€¨Only TRINITY church can answer this question. The jury has been out for a long time and the church's silence does not provide much confidence.
Last week, a source informed this newspaper that a committee had been formed comprising executives from 32BJ, FQM/Alliance and TRINITY, reportedly for coordinating operations and for addressing employees' grievances. But one union member and employee said: "We need to elect our own representatives for such a committee. Otherwise how would they know our problems?"
"Speaking Truth To Empower."