CWA Local 1081
60 Park Place, Suite 501
Newark, NJ, 07102
Office (973) 623-1081
Fax: (732) 988-1081

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September 27, 2008

Bruce Nigro, Director

Essex County Division of Welfare

18 Rector Street, Floor 9

Newark, NJ, 07102

Re: Rejoinder to “Guiding Principles for Customer Service”

Dear Mr. Nigro:

CWA Local 1081 respectfully submits this retort to your attached memorandum of September 25, 2008, entitled “Guiding Principles for Customer Service”, and the list of such principles you included within the separate attached document “intended as a tool to attempt to ensure that all clients receive the best possible service from our employees”:

Principle One: Factually, not all “Clients Can Never Be An Inconvenience”. With the shortage of staff our agency chronically suffers and the excessive managerial deferential treatment of clients regardless if the latter are incorrect and/or ill behaved, an oft times toxic workplace environment created and fostered by management precipitates unnecessary friction and occasional mutual resentment between members of CWA Local 1081 and the clients they deeply desire to service with the most professional procedures possible despite the trying circumstances in which they are involuntarily involved.

Principle Two: While our Union does not disagree that agency employees should believe in the spirit of your aphorism and behave as though “The Needs of Each Client Must Be Met With Courteous Concerned Attention”, CWA Local 1081 would greatly appreciate were you to personally deign to service clients as do our members, particularly during the entire first five days of just one month, so that you may first hand experience just how difficult your somewhat delusional dictum denotes.

Principle Three: While once again our Union does not disagree that agency employees should believe in the sense of your saying we “Maintain Honest Communications Without Demeaning the Clients”, CWA Local 1081 insists management refine and realize an employee/client interaction methodology that insists all clients maintain honest communications without demeaning agency staff and/or their peers or abide some character of corrective consequences.

Principle Four: While our Union does not totally disagree that “Clients Must Be Considered With Respect To Scheduling, Telephone Contact And Office Hours”, it should also be part of our agency’s “social work” procedures to attempt to instill within some errant clients their responsibility to keep their scheduled appointments, not appear unannounced or not summoned to the offices unless there is an emergency and that they responsibly respect the generally accepted societal mores of proper telephonic contact and honor the agency’s office hours, the latter being most confusing inasmuch as you have insisted all employees exit their respective offices exactly at the minute of their appointed hour while some of your office managers assign workers cases in a fashion that renders your proclamation of punctuality pointless.

Principle Five: While once again our Union does not disagree that agency employees should endeavor to ascribe to the axiom that “Just Because The Client Is Assigned To Another Worker Does Not Relieve You Of Providing Service And Doing What Is Right”, CWA Local 1081 has witnessed too many times supervisors and/or office managers making unreasonable demands upon overworked workers instead of the supervisors and/or managers getting off their duffs and emerging from their offices to assist when need dictates.

Principle Six: For the most part, “Clients Are Entitled To The Information And Correspondence They Seek”. However, due to overworked and understaffed offices and even more cramped offices’ record rooms with case records strewn about as depicted in the photograph I recently shot within the Office of Medicaid Services, workers obtaining such sought substances for clients proves often time consuming and, at times, impossible. This condition presently exists as when workers in one office are compelled by management’s myopic design to obtain their clients’ case records from a record room located within another office on another floor of 18 Rector Street.

Principle Seven: Our Union totally concurs with the assertion that “The Clients Are Not Always Right”, for many by involuntary ignorance or by planned purpose demand services to which they are not legally entitled. The balance of this principle, “But Neither Are We. Help The Client” is insulting to our Union’s members for it implies they believe themselves without imperfection and are unwilling to assist their clients were such an imperfection of work process knowledge to come to the fore.

Principle Eight: While the members of CWA Local 1081 do sagely “Accept The Fact You Are Going To Have Challenging Days At Work”, management has within its power to lessen such challenges by eliminating such impediments as the redundant, draconian and counterproductive swipe card system and ensuring the parking lots the County leases are run efficiently sufficiently to allow our members to arrive at work on time without the worry of their personal vehicles being damaged and remuneration denied them, to name but two glaring examples.

Principle Nine: The pathetically palpable principle that “For Every Problem there Is More than One Solution” is simply not often true within our agency due to the confines and constricts under which our members must endeavor and endure as dictated by federal and state statutes. A client ineligible for assistance from our agency is more often than not eligible to receive no supplementary succor even were our members to “Seek Assistance Or Offer Other Resources”, and for workers to encourage clients otherwise is not only dishonest but probably illegal and certainly cruel.

Principle Ten: There is no disagreement forthcoming from CWA Local 1081 that “Essex County Welfare Will Maintain High Standards, Professional Integrity, And Provide Services On A Courteous Basis”. On those extremely rare occasions when any of our Union’s members fail to adhere to this principle, a failure which can and does occur within all workplace disciplines from the Whitehouse and Congress (especially the Whitehouse and Congress) to every other profession no matter how relatively insignificant it may by some be deemed, CWA Local 1081 has always worked with management to provide those members assistance with which to right themselves. However, the crafters and conveyors of this and the other nine abovementioned principles need heed their own remonstrations as our Union over the past thirty years of Essex County’s current form of government has witnessed two County Executives indicted and jailed.

Inasmuch as the “tag” at the bottom of the above cited document proclaims, “Putting Essex County First”, CWA Local 1081 respectfully reminds the purveyors of this proclamation of principles that the members of our Union should, and we insist must, be included within the sentiment and actuation of what by now has been rendered a rather stale slogan. While the County’s ten principles appear to have been fruitlessly framed upon a quasi-biblical basis, both numerically and effusively, CWA Local 1081 prefers to rely upon the number three which is revered by nearly every known human derivations of devotion:

1. The Administration of Essex County must negotiate a fare contract in which our members may take pride and from it a derive a life sustaining wage with equitable benefits for themselves and for their families.

2. The Administration of Essex County must hasten its protracted pace of hiring a sufficient number of Family Service Workers and Clerks so as to lessen our members’ inordinate burden so they may provide their clients all of the tritely tallied tenets contained within the abovementioned principles.

3. The Administration of Essex County must start treating the employees of the Essex County Division of Welfare with all the respect and dignity it has reasonably required within its principles we afford our clients.

Then, and only then will the principles proliferate as proffered.


David H. Weiner, President

CWA Local 1081