that was my job: SEIU members protest outside KeyBank.
for the Job—No Thanks for the Pay Cut
March 31, about 70 down- town janitorial workers and union
members held a rally in front of KeyBank’s offices on South
Pearl Street in Albany to protest Varsity Contractors, the
building’s cleaning contractor, for what they called unfair
labor practices. Service Employees International Union Local
200 organized the protest after Varsity didn’t rehire any
of the building’s eight current workers, who are SEIU members,
after taking over as the building’s cleaning contractor. March
31 was to be the workers’ last day of employment.
The day after the protest, Varsity offered jobs to all of
the workers, and seven accepted. Fred Pfeiffer of SEIU said
the offer surprised him, and he attributes it to the community
support and the rally. But the fight is not over, he added.
Although the workers were hired, as new employees they’ve
lost the seniority of their old positions, and some will receive
decreased pay and benefits. “We’re still fighting and we’re
not going to stop,” he said. “This is one building and eight
people. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t receive justice.”
The KeyBank rally was part of the struggle for a reasonable
living wage in New York state, said Pfeiffer. Two county legislators,
Wanda Willingham and Lucille McKnight, who support the increase
in the minimum wage (currently $5.15/hour) now before the
state Legislature, spoke in support of the workers at the
Your Feet, Lose Your Spot
is going to be a little tight on Tuesdays in downtown Albany
in the coming months. The Downtown Parking Committee, which
comprises representatives from the Center Square, Hudson-Park,
Mansion, Ten Broeck Triangle, and Washington Park neighborhood
associations, has designated Tuesdays as “leave your car home”
days for 10 weeks starting April 13.
Although some see this as a hostile move in the ongoing fight
for a residential permit parking system [“A Space of One’s
Own,” March 4], Councilman Richard Conti (Ward 6) insisted
that scoring a political point is not the goal. Instead, it’s
more like the neighborhoods taking matters into their own
hands. Conti said the park-in is designed to “encourage commuters
to explore different ways of commuting downtown, including
public transit, carpooling, and walking.”
He hopes the park-in will give an incentive for commuters—public
and private employees—to check out other methods of getting
to work, and that some of them will stick with those new methods.
Ideally, the increased demand would result in better transit
The downtown neighborhoods have tried a park-in before, about
five years ago, but it was a one-day event, and after some
criticism, committee members realized that “if you’re going
to change people’s habits, it’s not going to happen in one
day,” according to Conti. Some people suggested varying the
park-in days so they would be unpredictable, but Conti said
the final decision was made to keep it on Tuesdays so commuters
would be able to plan ahead for which alternative methods
they wanted to explore.
A residential permit system would have the same results as
a park-in, noted Conti, “but since we don’t have that, we’re
using the park-in as an alternative tool.”
its caucus meeting on March 31, the Albany Common Council
decided not to press directly for the release of personnel
records of fired police Cmdr. Christian D’Alessandro [“Tough
Questions Continue,” Newsfront, April 1].
Council members heard an opinion from their legal counsel,
Barbara Samel, who said that while they were entitled to the
records, it would doubtless take a long and expensive court
battle to receive them, and even then the records may not
contain the information the council is interested in: whether
or not D’Alessandro can be considered a whistle-blower for
his activities questioning overtime and recordkeeping practices
[“The Whole Truth?,” Newsfront, March 25].
Several council members expressed concern about taking on
an arbitration role that would be better left to the courts.
“Do we want to become a labor relations board?” asked council
Majority Leader Jim Sano (Ward 9).
we get this information, [the people] will want us to make
a decision,” noted Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin (Ward 2).
“Are we the courts?” D’Alessandro is expected to file a lawsuit
against the city for wrongful termination.
But the possibility of whistle-blowing still concerned much
of the council. “There’s a big difference between hearing
from a disgruntled employee (and we haven’t heard from the
employee) [and hearing] from the community who had a concern
about whistle-blowing,” said Councilwoman Shawn Morris (Ward
7). “I am not interested in vindicating either side; I’m interested
in whether there are overtime issues costing this city a lot
The council decided to follow Councilman Jim Scalzo’s (Ward
10) suggestion to “follow the money. If D’Alessandro is exonerated
during that,” then that’s fine, he said, later noting that
none of these issues would have come to light if it weren’t
for the furor over D’Alessandro’s firing.
The council did agree to continue seeking memos written by
D’Alessandro regarding overtime that would not be considered
part of his personnel file. They will also work closely with
Albany Comptroller Thomas Nitido as he seeks to audit police
it another step: Aaron Mair in pursuit of voters
rights. Photo by: John Whipple
Day, Take Three
heated arguments of what constitutes voters’ rights, the rescheduled
special primary election for the county legislator in Albany’s
district 3 takes place today (Thursday).
The election was rescheduled after hearings that looked into
the large numbers of absentee ballots collected by campaign
workers for the challenger, Jestin Williams, and allegations
that those workers had improperly filled out applications
for ballots—perhaps even ballots—for voters, some of whom
did not qualify for absentee voting [“Primary, Primary Again,”
Newsfront, March 25].
Williams is furious about having to do the election again.
He said the incumbent, Wanda Willingham, is “trying to keep
the people from their right to vote.
did nothing wrong. . . . We have nothing to apologize for,”
he said. “We stood up for the rights of people who wanted
to vote absentee.”
But there are those who disagree, and last Friday Willingham,
the NAACP, and others filed a lawsuit against Williams, his
campaign manager Jamie Gilkey, other campaign workers, the
Albany County Board of Elections and the Albany Housing Authority,
for whom Gilkey and two other defendants work. The lawsuit,
along with the allegations about improper use of absentee
ballots, charges a pattern of economic intimidation in which
Housing Authority residents were approached by city employees
who had power over their housing situation and were coerced
to vote in certain ways.
This, said Arbor Hill activist Aaron Mair, one of the plaintiffs
in the lawsuit, is nothing new. “It’s bigger than the county
race,” he said. It’s about getting at a widespread pattern
of fraud in the county, he said, which came to public light
only because of the compressed time cycle of the special elections.
Williams insisted the lawsuit is frivilous. “They won’t get
away with it,” he said. “Come April 8, the people are going
to have their say.”