Jersey City crossing guards, members of the Jersey City Public Employees Local 245, protested outside City Hall yesterday as they seek a contract for the first time in seven years.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Jersey City Public Employees Local 245 President Santo DellaMonica said in addition to being without a deal for ages, the supervisors are often disrespectful to his members who are mostly seniors who have to endure bad weather.
“They’re treating these people terrible,” DellaMonica told HCV, indicating they are only asking for a dollar raise.
He also contends that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of unionized guards shrank from 250 to 150 members, which is what the city had hoped for.
“It’s a shame we’re 100 guards short. Who’s crossing the kids? Casper? They want them to be like stormtroopers. You don’t want to pay them but you want them to stand in full uniform,” DellaMonica asserted.
“You get a young supervisor saying you better do this, you better do that, talking down to them. Nobody wants the job.”
As a result, certain crosswalks are now being monitored by police officers who are being paid at least $75 an hour, DellaMonica said.
While he felt the union was making progress, the city brought in a new lawyer who wanted to negotiate the Department of Public Workers (DPW) and recreation department contracts simultaneously, despite the jobs being very different.
“It’s their strategy to keep stalling and stalling and stalling,” DellaMonica added.
The union head continued that they currently make $17 an hour, which is only good for about $31,000 a year – forcing many members to rely on food pantries during the pandemic.
He questioned how the city couldn’t spare any money for them when the landscaping contract is $800,000, new divisions/positions are being created, and the Pompidou Centre is in the works.
Gloria Conde came with her daughter to support a crossing guard near her school in the protest.
“They do a wonderful job. They do a very important function,” she explained.
Democratic Committeeman Gary Spingarn also came out in support of the cross guards, noting his wife commutes to New York City and has developed relationships with them while walking to public transportation.
“Along with the real pandemic, we’ve had an epidemic of pedestrian accidents in Jersey City and we have 100 shifts that aren’t going filled. It’s a danger to our children. It’s over, what, a few bucks in wages? That should be a lay-up,” he said.
DellaMonica also noted that the union is suing for owed wages after the appellate court ruled that employees who worked during a 2018 State of Emergency are owed double pay.
“Will the rest of the state vote for him for governor knowing his city workers had to sue him for 40 million in backpay? If your city is broke, what will you do with the rest of the cities?,” he questioned.
Union reps have a negotiation meeting scheduled for June 28th and while DellaMonica remains pessimistic, city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said they remain “cautiously optimistic” that a new deal is close.
“Our crossing guards are valued employees, and the city is working closely with union leaders to come to a fair resolution. We are cautiously optimistic and hope to finalize the contract terms with the union in the upcoming days that effectively meet their needs,” she said.
They also held a picket in front of City Hall on Monday morning and have another one planned for tomorrow evening.