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

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Newark Teachers Union

New Jersey Citizen Action Oil Group

July 2, 2009


Frank Palmieri, ASFS

Office of Medicaid Services

Essex County Division of Welfare

18 Rector Street, Floor 10

Newark, NJ, 07102


Re: Step I Class Action Contractual Grievance

       Improvident Emergency Evacuation Procedures

       Article I. Purpose

       Article VII. Discipline

       Article XXV. Non-Discrimination

       Article XLIX. Safety of Staff


Dear Mr. Palmieri:


CWA Local 1081 submits this Step I Class Action Contractual Grievance to protest on behalf of all of our members assigned to the Office of Medicaid Services (OMS) portions of the content of your attached memorandum dated July 2, 2009, issued today to all OMS staff entitled “Fire/Emergency Evacuation Plans and Procedures”, as well as your reported conduct and that of some or all of your designated fire marshals during the evacuation of 18 Rector Street which occurred on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 during an blackout of 18 Rector Street caused by an exploded electrical transformer at the IDT building located down the street:


  1. Within your abovementioned memorandum, under the section entitled “Staff and Visitors Requiring Assistance with Evacuation”, you state “The following staff members are known to need evacuation assistance” and then you proceed to mention two of our Union members’ names without having first informed them of your intention or ask their permission to do so. CWA Local 1081 considers your having done so a violation of those members’ respective right to privacy under the Health Insurance and Portability Act of 1996, the Medical Records Confidentiality Act of 1995 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. At most, only the designated fire marshals need be aware of employees knowingly needing special assistance to evacuate the building during a fire/emergency and we are aware that factually there were at least six other of our members in similar need of assistance.
  2. The two members of CWA Local 1081 whom you mention in your memorandum, as well as four others suffering physical conditions precluding them from readily utilizing ten flights of stairs to evacuate the building, were managerially mandated to remain behind and congregate within the hallway immediately outside of their office. These six employees were harangued by the no doubt well meaning private security guards to evacuate the building to the point that they were forced to do so, utilizing the stairs, despite their respective medical maladies.
  3. During the above cite evacuation of 18 Rector Street, instead of utilizing the office’s intercom system (which we assumed worked since it is based upon the telephone system which continued to function after the lights went out) to notify the staff of the OMS to evacuate you utilized a bullhorn and threatened staff with discipline were they not to exit the building immediately, this despite the fact staff had not been given any prior instructions to vacate the building prior to your bellicose bullhorn bullying.
  4. While the OMS staff was ordered to evacuate the building, the clients initially and concurrently were not thus precipitating one of our Union’s shop stewards sagely selecting to urge them to do so. This order should have come from one of your fire marshals, or from you.
  5. Our Union has been informed that, contrary to your instructions contained within your aforesaid memorandum under the section entitled “Evacuation Team Duties”, during the June 30, 2009 evacuation some or all of the fire marshals evacuated the building with, or even before, all of the OMS employees and clients had first been evacuated.
  6. Under the section of your aforementioned memorandum entitled “Evacuation Procedures”, you assert that “The assembly area is the corner of Broad and Fulton Streets in front of the First Baptist Memorial Church”. However, on June 30, 2009 the transformer fire at the IDT building was emitting health threatening smoke yet you ordered our members to remain in front of the church instead of allowing them to seek refuge by congregating within an area located further from the explosion and its noxious emissions.


CWA Local 1081 retains no reservations regarding your overall good intentions regarding the June 30, 2009 incident or regarding your memorialized fire/emergency evacuation procedures in general. However, our Union does maintain that some of the procedures you utilized on June 20, 2009 were not all optimal or in the best interests of our members and their clients.


You will please recall, CWA Local 1081 has previously requested Director Nigro attempt to make arrangements with both the Newark YMCA and the Robert Treat Hotel to shelter the employees assigned to 18 Rector Street when an evacuation of the building were necessary and CWA Local 1081 members were compelled to congregate within their designated exterior areas for protracted periods of time while exposed to the elements. To date, no such arrangements have been attempted, or arranged, despite the fact the Newark YMCA did not lose its electricity during the June 30, 2009 incident and has the space to accommodate our adversely affected agency personnel. Our Union even offered our members to assemble within our office, located at 60 Park Place, despite what would have been considerable cramped quarters and a number of them did. It was due to CWA Local 1081’s persistence, and Mr. Nigro’s and the Administration’s responsible response, that the employees of 18 Rector Street were allowed to leave work earlier on June 30, 2009 and our Union thanks both the Administration and Mr. Nigro in that regard.


The resolution CWA Local 1081 respectfully demands to this grievance consists of the following:


  1. You will retract and reissue your memorandum of July 2, 2009, sans the names of our two cited members, and you will not similarly violate any of our Union’s members’ medical privacy rights hereafter.
  2. You will arrange enhanced communication between the private security guards, your designated fire marshals and yourself regarding better coordinating during fire/evacuation procedures, particularly as they pertain to members in need of special assistance as well as clients and their children.
  3. You will utilize the office’s intercom system, in lieu of your bombastic bullhorn, whenever possible and refrain from gratuitously threatening CWA Local 1081 members with discipline when not warranted.
  4. You will ensure the designated fire marshals adhere to the applicable tenets of your memorandum of July 2, 2009.
  5. You will be more malleable, and reasonable, when designating the staff assembly area were that area to be rendered unsuitable.


We seek a hearing, in this regard of utmost import.





David H. Weiner, President

CWA Local 1081