The three unions representing Correction Officers and supervisors sued May 29 to stop the city from ordering their members to work at juvenile-detention facilities that are run by the Administration for Children’s Services and staffed by civil servants who belong to other unions.
The suit characterized the attempt to place correction officers in jobs now done by Juvenile Counselors and Special Officers as “union-busting.”
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joseph Esposito June 1 granted a temporary restraining order blocking the city from proceeding with the plan until the unions' arguments can be heard.
‘Raise the Age’
The issue arose with the passage of a “Raise the Age” law as part of last year’s state budget, which changed the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. Under the law, adolescent offenders, now housed by DOC, must be placed by October in facilities “operated by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services in conjunction with the New York City Department of Correction.”
“It is believed that at the Mayor’s direction, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice engineered a plan to staff ACS facilities with uniformed members of DOC,” said the unions’ complaint, filed in Queens Supreme Court, which added that “it is neither legal nor a just solution.
“...Teachers are not police officers, and uniformed members of the DOC are simply not the right fit for these youth in the custody of ACS. Indeed, there are already members of the city workforce whose job it is to care for and have custody and control of this population in the juvenile-justice system.”
The unions maintain that city laws require that correction officers work solely for DOC and that out-of-title work is prohibited by state law, which mandates that reclassification of a job must go through an approval process.
‘Radical Staffing Transfers’
“The Department of Citywide Administrative Services has not sought any permission of the State Civil Service Commission, pursuant to Civil Service Law, to make radical staffing transfers,” the unions said in a joint announcement.
Civil-service employees “very simply have the right to do the job described to them in the examination that they passed and in the title under which they are classified,” the complaint said.
Assigning correction officers to do work done by Juvenile Counselors “is tantamount to stealing the jobs of fellow municipal workers,” the complaint said. “Simply put, the Mayor’s RTA staffing program is union-busting.”
Juvenile Counselors are represented by Local 371 of District Council 37 and Special Officers by Local 237 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The two juvenile-detention centers at issue are planned for Brooklyn and The Bronx.
‘Fight to the End’
“We’re going to fight it to the very end,” Correction Captains Association President Patrick J. Ferraiuolo said in an interview. “No one in DOC applied to work in the juvenile-justice system.”
Repercussions for using force are different in juvenile facilities than they are in DOC, Mr. Ferraiuolo said. “If something goes wrong, you could have major, major problems,” including seeing your name added to the state Child Abuse Registry.
“The juveniles are some of the most violent people you have to deal with,” he said. It takes special training to deal with them under ACS rules, he said. Correction officers never received such training. Juvenile Counselors and Special Officers, trained to supervise incarcerated youth, are represented by different unions, he said.
Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said in a statement, “Four years ago, they said we had the fight club. They said we were abusing the 16-, 17-year-olds. Now we’re here four years later and we’re hearing things like we’re the best-equipped, we’re the best-qualified. You can’t have it both ways.”
Teachers in Firehouses?
“Just because the City of New York is woefully under-prepared to meet all the requirements of the new ‘Raise the Age’ legislation, it doesn’t mean they have the legal authority to force our members to work in an agency that is not run by the Correction Department,” he continued. “Would you ask Teachers to work out of a firehouse?”
Faisal Zouhbi, president of the Assistant Deputy Wardens/Deputy Wardens Association, said in his own statement, “This lawsuit should send a very powerful message to City Hall that we will not simply roll over while they foolishly attempt to have our members perform the jobs of other civil servants. The law is on our side.”
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