Cheated Workers In The Bronx Urged To Fight Back

Posted by Annalicia Finol on August 12, 2016 ·

By Joe Maniscalco - Labor Press

“The reality is that we had workers who where former workers of this restaurant and they told us they tried to get a job at another restaurant and they were treated basically the same,” State Senator Gustavo Rivera [D-33rd District] told LaborPress. “There are a lot of similarities here where you have employers who are allegedly taking advantage of workers who are undocumented and easy to intimidate.”

“You might think that as an undocumented worker that you have no rights and nothing protects you, but that’s not the way it works,” State Senator Rivera added. “Regardless of what your status is, if you are working in this county, you have laws that protect you.”

Advocates for a group of fired restaurant workers terminated after protesting ongoing wage theft at a popular Bronx eatery, say that the outrageous workplace abuses they experienced extend far beyond a single establishment — and they want others facing similar abuses to know that they have the power to fight back.

Roughly a half dozen Liberato Restaurant workers have reportedly been fired over the course an almost 16-month battle with the establishment’s owner, Manuel Antonio Liberato. What they’ve found after seeking alternative employment at other restaurants and supermarkets, however, is more of the same kind of brazen disregard for basic worker rights.

“We discovered the problem is not only Liberato Restaurant,” Mahoma Lopez Garfias, co-director of the Laundry Workers Center, told LaborPress at a Thursday night workers’ rights forum held on Valentine Avenue. “The problem is bigger. [Business owners] don’t respect the labor laws.”

Most of the predominately Latino workers involved in the Liberato Restaurant fight for workplace justice, are undocumented emigres. And advocates say that unscrupulous business owners are using the fear of immediate deportation to exploit workers. 

“The reality is that we had workers who where former workers of this restaurant and they told us they tried to get a job at another restaurant and they were treated basically the same,” State Senator Gustavo Rivera [D-33rd District] told LaborPress. “There are a lot of similarities here where you have employers who are allegedly taking advantage of workers who are undocumented and easy to intimidate.”

Despite the entrenched fear of deportation, all workers — regardless of their immigration status — are protected against wage theft and other on-the-job abuses. 

“You might think that as an undocumented worker that you have no rights and nothing protects you, but that’s not the way it works,” State Senator Rivera added. “Regardless of what your status is, if you are working in this county, you have laws that protect you.”

Earlier this week, a business owner named Samuel Just was arrested and charged in an alleged scheme to defraud and cheat five people he hired as day laborers in Brooklyn. 

On Thursday night, Oswaldo Mendoza, a member of NICE — New Immigrant Community Empowerment — reported similar incidents in the Bronx where day laborers have been abandoned without pay after being hired to do construction work out on Long Island.

In addition to its immediate economic impact, Mendoza said wage theft impacts hardworking men and women in other profound ways as well. 

“Wage theft in our community also steals our dignity as human beings,” he said. 

Assemblyman Victor M. Pichardo [86th District] chided business owners who continue to try and flout labor laws in the pursuit of personal profit. 

“We hope to put enough pressure on these business owners to understand that doing the right thing and making sure you are profitable, are not mutually exclusive,” the Bronx assemblyman said. “You can do both — make money and make sure you respect the rights of workers.”

Cheated workers — mostly non-union immigrant men and women — are currently owed $3.7 in prevailing wage settlement money — but New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is having difficulty locating the more than 1,000 eligible parties. 

That's partly because the same fear and lack of eduction about basic worker rights that makes them so vulnerable to bad bosses, also makes it hard for many undocumented workers to remain in any one place for long. 

Those speaking out at Thursday night’s forum say that they are advocating not only for themselves, but for all exploited workers. 

In a bizarre turn in the Liberato saga, workers and their advocates suing for stolen wages are also facing a RICO case brought by restaurant owner Manuel Antonio Liberato who is alleging racketeering, extortion, and harassment.

“They fired us for organizing and sued us for talking about our rights,” fired Liberato worker Maggy Andres said. “They intimidated us, but what we’re doing is for the betterment of everyone.”

Source: http://laborpress.org/sectors/union-retail...

DC 37 Endorses Five Democratic Legislators in September Primary

Posted by Annalicia Finol on August 10, 2016 ·

By Josefa Velasquez - Politico New York 

DC 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, endorsed five Democrats in the September primary.

The union endorsed sitting senators Roxanne Persaud, Toby Stavisky and Gustavo Rivera. The union also endorsed Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo.

DC 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, endorsed five Democrats in the September primary.

The union endorsed sitting senators Roxanne Persaud, Toby Stavisky and Gustavo Rivera. The union also endorsed Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo. 

“These candidates have solid records of accomplishment that demonstrate their dedication to their communities,” DC 37 executive director Henry Garrido said in a statement. “They share our union’s values of economic justice, and they believe that government can and should be a force to improve the lives of all New Yorkers. DC 37 volunteers will be on the phones and on the streets from now until Primary Day to ensure victory for these candidates.”

Source: https://www.politicopro.com/states/new-yor...

Rivera & Pichardo Host 3rd Annual Senior Health Fair

Posted by Annalicia Finol on July 28, 2016 ·

By Robert Wirsing -- Bronx Times

Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo hosted their third annual Senior Health Fair on Friday, July 22 at Monroe College’s King Hall Auditorium. As part of Senator Rivera’s Bronx CAN Health Initiative, the event gave attendees access to health information, tips on preventative measures and an array of health screenings ranging from blood pressure to glucose testing.

Source: http://www.bxtimes.com/stories/2016/31/31-...

‘NYC’s worst landlord’ meets with tenants

Posted by Annalicia Finol on July 26, 2016 ·

By Robert Wirsing - Bronx Times 

On Friday, July 8, a few days before the meeting with Parkash, Senator Gustavo Rivera and NWBCCC members met tenants outside 2454 Tiebout Avenue to protest the building’s poor living conditions and file a lawsuit against the landlord.

The city’s ‘number one worst landlord’ has finally met with his tenants.

On Tuesday, July 12, the Parkash Tenant Coalition, NYC Public Advocate representatives, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments and the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project met with Ved Parkash at Concourse House at 2751 Grand Concourse to address their demands and concerns.

According to a NWBCCC tenant organizer, over 120 tenants from 15 different Parkash-owned buildings were in attendance.

Michael Leonard, Urban Justice staff attorney, attended the meeting and drafted a ‘Memorandum of Understand­ing’ document containing the tenants’ demands which Parkash publicly agreed upon.

These demands include creating a ‘repair request sheet’ in both English and Spanish to be approved by the coalition, to honor all repair requests, to have the super of each building visit each apartment and distribute repair request forms to tenants who have not completed or received one within one month and to install complaint boxes in every buildings’ lobby ensuring tenants can make repair requests directly to the super. 

Repairs to the underlying conditions such as leaking pipes or mold sources, to give 72-hour notice to tenants for non-emergency repairs unless a court order requests otherwise, to call Parkash’s cellphone to report conditions in need of repairs, to provide a written notice in English and Spanish to tenants if the super visits the apartment when no one is home, to fix any front entrance doors needing repairs, to install new security cameras and new lighting in all of the buildings within one year were also included in the agreement. 

The coalition will provide Parkash with a list of buildings with unkept common areas and will post information about tenants’ rights in every lobby in addition to a notice for the right to call 311. 

Parkash agreed to immediately respond to elevator complaints and to ensure they function at all times.

The landlord is to direct the porter or super from each building to clean the elevator before 7 a.m. and use the elevator to transport garbage or construction materials only before 7 a.m. 

Parkash agreed that holdover evictions cannot be initiated without the tenant being notified by certified mail. He also agreed to waive late fees when the rent is paid anytime within the month it is due, agreed to provide tenants with accurate pass due rent breakdowns and to cease charging fees as rent arrears, agreed to ensure accurate records rather than resort to court over rent when tenants do not owe anything and to have a representative meet with the coalition to ensure tenants’ needs are being properly addressed.

The organizer noted Parkash was ‘very general’ in some of his responses. He said all of his buildings would have security cameras installed, but did not specify as to when or which buildings will receive the improvements. 

The NWBCCC tenant organizer said the coalition plans to host follow-up meetings to update progress at Parkash’s properties. 

On Friday, July 8, a few days before the meeting with Parkash, Senator Gustavo Rivera and NWBCCC members met tenants outside 2454 Tiebout Avenue to protest the building’s poor living conditions and file a lawsuit against the landlord.

Rajiv Jaswa, Urban Justice Center staff attorney, said as of Monday, July 18, there are 271 open housing code violations at 2454 Tiebout Avenue alone, with 174 Class B hazardous violations and 18 Class C immediately hazardous violations.

They include lack of heat and hot water, a non-working elevator, unkempt building, inadequate lighting, leaks and rodent and cockroach infestations.

Tenants complained about the landlord’s ‘patchwork’ repairs, in which a fresh paint job is used to hide leaks, mold and mildew.

“We struggle to pay our rent to live in a decent and comfortable apartment,” Rafaela Martinez, a 2454 Tiebout Avenue resident. “It makes me depressed to see my building and apartment falling apart.”

Jaswa said NYC Housing Preservation and Development inspectors visited the property to document all violations and the work that has been done at the building since the rally.

He added Judge Laurie Marin will preside over the first court hearing for 2454 Tiebout Avenue on Monday, August 15 at Bronx Housing Court. 

As previously reported in the Bronx Times, Parkash was ranked ‘number one’ on NYC Public Advocate Letitia James’ ‘100 Worst Landlords in New York City’ last November for accumulating a staggering 2,369 violations in 11 of his 43 buildings. Parkash owns approximately 40 buildings in the Bronx.

The problematic properties include 2675 Creston Avenue, 2125 Cruger Avenue, 2487 Davidson Avenue, 180 E. 163rd Street, 58 E. 190th Street, 751 Gerard Avenue, 815 Gerard, 750 Grand Concourse, 2820 Sedgwick Avenue, 1530 Sheridan Avenue, 2454 Tiebout Avenue and 835 Walton Avenue.

Tenants from 15 of Parkash’s buildings established the Parkash Tenant Coalition and after a successful protest conducted in front of Bronx Housing Court on Thursday, June 2, Parkash agreed to meet with his tenants.

Source: http://www.bxtimes.com/stories/2016/30/30-...

Bill to give incarcerated New Yorkers' health records to relatives passes Legislature

Posted by Annalicia Finol on June 13, 2016 ·

By  ADDY BAIRD - Politico New York

The bill was sponsored in the Assembly by Michael Blake and in the Senate by Gustavo Rivera, both Bronx Democrats.

"While last year's administrative directives ordered by Governor Cuomo were steps in the right direction to ensure that DOCCS maintains an updated and readily accessible medical and mental health authorization form from an incarcerated individual, this bill aims to go a step further," Rivera said in a statement Monday.

Incarcerated people may soon be able to grant family members or caretakers access to their medical records, after bills proposing the change passed both houses of the Legislature Monday.

The bill was sponsored in the Assembly by Michael Blake and in the Senate by Gustavo Rivera, both Bronx Democrats.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a version of the bill last year and instead ordered that the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision review the medical authorization form to ensure it is updated regularly and accessible in emergencies. He also ordered that the form be provided to incarcerated people upon admission, put in their personal medical records and kept in correctional facilities’ law libraries. The new bill seeks to codify those orders.

"While last year's administrative directives ordered by Governor Cuomo were steps in the right direction to ensure that DOCCS maintains an updated and readily accessible medical and mental health authorization form from an incarcerated individual, this bill aims to go a step further," Rivera said in a statement Monday.

Source: https://www.politicopro.com/states/new-yor...

SENATOR GUSTAVO RIVERA HONORS TRUDY POGUE FOR HER SERVICE AND DEDICATION TO CLAREMONT HOUSES RESIDENTS AND COMMUNITY Trudy Pogue Named ‘Woman of Distinction’

Posted by Annalicia Finol on May 25, 2016 ·

By Robert Wirsing - Bronx Times

Senator Gustavo Rivera honored Trudy Pogue, Claremont Houses Tenant Association president, as this year’s ‘Woman of Distinction’ for the 33rd Senate District on Tuesday, May 10 at an award ceremony held in Albany. A Bronx resident for over 43 years, Pogue has served as active community member participating in a number of community-based organizations addressing issues such as youth empowerment and improving safety in Bronx neighborhoods. As Claremont Houses Tenant Association president, Pogue has dedicated herself in ensuring residents receive services. She recently partnered with Rivera and the Urban Justice Center to ensure that NYCHA properly addressed heating issues plaguing one of the Claremont Houses’ buildings.

Senator Gustavo Rivera honored Trudy Pogue, Claremont Houses Tenant Association president, as this year’s ‘Woman of Distinction’ for the 33rd Senate District on Tuesday, May 10 at an award ceremony held in Albany. A Bronx resident for over 43 years, Pogue has served as active community member participating in a number of community-based organizations addressing issues such as youth empowerment and improving safety in Bronx neighborhoods. As Claremont Houses Tenant Association president, Pogue has dedicated herself in ensuring residents receive services. She recently partnered with Rivera and the Urban Justice Center to ensure that NYCHA properly addressed heating issues plaguing one of the Claremont Houses’ buildings.

Source: http://www.bxtimes.com/stories/2016/21/21-...

Senator Rivera Honors Trudy Pogue as the 2016 “Woman of Distinction”

Posted by Annalicia Finol on May 14, 2016 ·

By Annie Boller - The Bronx Chronicle

“Either by working tirelessly to improve the safety of her Bronx neighborhood or by fiercely advocating on behalf of her fellow tenants at Claremont Houses, the dedication and commitment Ms. Trudy Pogue has demonstrated to her community exemplifies the best the 33rd District has to offer,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “I’m honored to have this occasion to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary efforts of such an exemplary woman.”

Today, State Senator Gustavo Rivera honored Ms. Trudy Pogue, Tenant Association President of Claremont Houses, as the 2016 “Woman of Distinction” for the 33rd Senate District at an award ceremony celebrated in Albany.

A Bronx resident for over forty-three years, Ms. Pogue has been an active member of her community, participating in a number of community based organizations that focus on addressing issues pertaining to youth empowerment and improving the safety of Bronx neighborhoods.

“Either by working tirelessly to improve the safety of her Bronx neighborhood or by fiercely advocating on behalf of her fellow tenants at Claremont Houses, the dedication and commitment Ms. Trudy Pogue has demonstrated to her community exemplifies the best the 33rd District has to offer,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “I’m honored to have this occasion to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary efforts of such an exemplary woman.”

As the current Tenant Association President at Claremont Houses, Ms. Pogue has worked vigorously in ensuring that the tenants of the building receive the services they need. Recently, one of the buildings at Claremont Houses was without heat for months during the winter season. Ms. Pogue partnered with the Office of State Senator Gustavo Rivera and the Urban Justice Center to ensure NYCHA, who manages the building, addressed the heating issues plaguing the building and causing the residents hardship.

A woman of faith, Ms. Pogue is a member of the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church, the Pentecostal Baptist Church and the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. Ms. Pogue hopes to continue her work as an advocate for seniors and the residents of Claremont Houses for years to come.

Source: http://thebronxchronicle.com/2016/05/14/se...

Power to the Parents (Poder Para Los Padres)

Posted by Annalicia Finol on May 11, 2016 ·

The Bronx Free Press

“The organizations represented here today are very concerned with the health of the Bronx, and how they can provide access to resources to everyone from a young age,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “Sadly, for the past six years, the Bronx has been ranked dead last in the state of New York across many health indicators. What you see here is that so much goes into raising a healthy person.”

Sofía Nivar had bling on the brain.

“There are so many gems in our own community,” she said. “And sometimes we don’t even know.”

Nivar, Program Director of the non-profit South Bronx Healthy Families,‎ spoke to the dozens of young mothers holding newborns and expectant others who would soon do the same.

Nivar was one of various participants at the New Parents Resource Fair who shared details on the ample resources, or “gems,” that were available to be accessed by Bronx parents‎. The annual event was hosted by Union Community Health Center (UCHC) on Sat., Apr. 30th at its 260 East 188thStreet site.

Nancy Spellman, UCHC Chief Operating Officer, said the goal was to provide useful information to expectant mothers and guardians of children ages 0-2, and to help them see the UCHC network as a central hub.

“We want people to know they can come here and get a full range of services,” she explained. “We have Urban Justice to help with legal matters and housing; we offer food stamps here; we have behavioral health services; we educate; and we also have four primary care centers.  The fair is really for people with young children to know that we are here for them, for many services that they need for their family.”

The site was filled on Saturday with neat lines of tables at which volunteers conducted screenings, dispensed fliers and offered follow-up details. There were dental screenings; pointers on pelvic floor exercises; physical therapy education forums; and breastfeeding and CPR workshops.

In one such setting, Lesly Arzu sat cradling a plastic baby in her lap.

Sitting across from her was Family Support Worker Ayesha Larkins, who asked, “How have you been sleeping?” When Arzu responded that she was sleeping normally, yet feeling fairly lonely, Larkins referred her to a support group for new mothers.

“It’s very common to feel that way,” she assured the young mother. “That’s one of the reasons we are here.”

The simulated conversation offered the two women, both family support workers for South Bronx Healthy Families, an opportunity to explain that their organization offered this kind of home visit, to provide support and education for expecting mothers and fathers, as well as any guardians with children under three months old. They also connect parents-to-be and new parents with support groups, doula information, swimming and yoga classes, in addition to hosting weekly raffles.

Among those in attendance were local elected officials.

Assemblymember Latoya Joyner presented Spellman and all the UCHC network with a Special Recognition and Resolution from the State Assembly for its work in addressing maternal depression. Her colleague Assemblymember Victor Pichardo also took part in a CPR demo.

“The organizations represented here today are very concerned with the health of the Bronx, and how they can provide access to resources to everyone from a young age,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “Sadly, for the past six years, the Bronx has been ranked dead last in the state of New York across many health indicators. What you see here is that so much goes into raising a healthy person.”

Beyond the focus on physical health, organizers also stressed the importance of positive family ties and the need for integrated services.

Volunteers at the New York Public Library table, for example, handed out family literacy packs, which included bilingual reading materials for toddlers, as well as instructional resources for parents on how to help children develop essential language skills.

Stefanie Reyes made her way through the fair with her six-month-old son in his stroller. She said she was glad she had made time to attend.

“My favorite part is [this],” she said as Jayce clapped excitedly. “[It’s the] focus on families.”

Source: http://thebronxfreepress.com/power-to-the-...