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 21, 2009


Anibal Ramos, Director

Essex County Department of Citizen Services

18 Rector Street, Floor 9

Newark, NJ, 07102


Re: Step III 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. Ramos:


CWA Local 1081 submits this Step III 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  ASFS Frank Palmieri’s attached memorandum dated July 2, 2009, issued to all OMS staff entitled “Fire/Emergency Evacuation Plans and Procedures”, as well as Mr. Palmieri’s reported conduct and that of some or all of his 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. Mr. Palmieri’s attached Step I Class Action Contractual Grievance denial response of July 2, 2009 is unacceptable to CWA Local 1081 and our Union’s adversely affected members, particularly his disdainful discounting of the entirety of our grievance thus undermining the significant importance of the subject matter. Director Nigro’s attached Step II Class Action Contractual Grievance denunciation rejoinder of July 15, 2009, while composed much more courteously to our Union, is nonetheless wonting in the following specific areas:


  1. CWA Local 1081 appreciates the fact that “Mr. Palmieri has re-issued his memorandum” and, in particular, has in so doing deleted the names of two members of our Union whom he had unfittingly exposed as staff members “known to need evacuation assistance”.
  2. CWA Local 1081 appreciates, as well, the fact that the County has informed our Union that “on the day of the event we discussed with both Abbry security and building security that we have evacuation plans in force and that our managers are responsible for providing directions”. However, and with all due respect, the time to have so informed Abbry’s security operatives and building security of such evacuation plans would have been well before the day of the event as a prudent prophylactic procedure.
  3. While CWA Local 1081 may well appreciate the necessity of Mr. Palmieri’s having utilizing his “bellicose bullhorn” to instruct his staff during the evacuation procedures were his office’s telephonic system to have been rendered inoperable, the information we received from our members assigned to that office is that the telephonic system was indeed functioning on the day in question. If the bullhorn were an acceptable means of instructing staff and clients during the office’s evacuation, are all offices within the Essex County Division of Welfare so equipped and, if not, why not?
  4. Members of CWA Local 1081 have provided their Union a differing recounting of by whom clients were advised to leave the building than that rendered within Mr. Nigro’s riposte.
  5. While, as Mr. Nigro asserts, “With respect to fire marshals evacuating the building before the remainder of the employees left, the issuance of the original memorandum in question served to address that issue”, the fact remains some fire marshals, and not only within the OMS, reportedly did vacated the building before all of those for whom they were responsible had. This appears to be a universal quandary that needs be addressed by the County within all of our agency’s offices.
  6. In response to CWA Local 1081 having reported that “Under the section of Mr. Palmieri’s aforementioned memorandum entitled ‘Evacuation Procedures’, he asserts 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 Mr. Palmieri 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”, Mr. Nigro’s rejoinder that his personal observation that the smoke “did not reach past Fulton Street and was distant from our employees”, does not, respectfully, comport with reports our Union received from members assigned to the OMS.


CWA Local 1081 has previously requested Mr. Nigro to 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 arranged, or even attempted, 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, the Administration’s and Mr. Nigro’s responsible response, that the employees of 18 Rector Street were allowed to leave work earlier on June 30, 2009 and our Union once again thanks both the Administration and him in that matter.


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


  1. The County shall arrange to have implemented enhanced communication between the private security guards, the designated fire marshals and the offices’ managers 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.
  2. If it has yet to do so, the County shall provide all offices’ managers with bullhorns and instruct them how optimally and reverentially to utilize them.
  3. The County shall ensure that the designated fire marshals within all of the agency’s offices adhere to the applicable memorialized tenets regarding emergency evacuations and that those tenets shall be reviewed and altered to reflect the lessons learned on Tuesday, June 30, 2009.
  4. The County shall reconsider the propriety of the positioning of agency personnel outside the building were such an evacuation to again transpire in a manner consistent with the care of our members’ safety and plain old common sense.
  5. The County shall consult with the respective managements of both the Newark YMCA and the Robert Treat Hotel to discern if one, or both, of the sites may be utilized by agency staff during emergency evacuations.


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





David H. Weiner, President

CWA Local 1081