IDCWLaw by Partner Liam L. Castro, Esq., Wins Pay Lawsuit For Military Reservists Called to Active Duty.

It is critical for us to support our military personnel.  IDCWLaw did just that.  Two Mount Vernon police officers were called to active duty to assist our nation with the government’s COVID-19 response.  While supporting our nation during the first pandemic in a century, they asked the City of Mount Vernon Police Department for military pay differential; that is the difference between their higher police officer pay and the military pay they were receiving while deployed.  They were losing income while supporting us.  But, the City of Mount Vernon said no because they were not deployed overseas, but were instead only responding to a COVID-19 national pandemic emergency.  IDCWLaw, with the assistance of the Mount Vernon PBA, sued the City and Police Department.  After the City continued to fight against these national heroes in Court, and our continued advocacy, on June 8, 2022, the Westchester County Supreme Court ordered the City to make these payments immediately.  The Court held the City was wrong.  We are thrilled for this victory for two reservists who rightly deserve our support.

IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro Receives Restraining Order Prohibiting Ulster County From Denying Union Client Officials’ Release Time.

We are happy to announce that today the Supreme Court, Ulster County issued against the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department and Ulster County, pending arbitration, an injunction prohibiting them from denying union officials’ from using County-paid release time.  In early March a union client requested time off for two union officials’ midnight shift (12-8) to attend union meetings beginning at about 8am.  The County argued the union meetings did not start until after the officials’ shift ended.  We convinced the judge that requiring the officials to work their shift, and then work an additional shift for union meetings was unfair at this stage; that an arbitrator would decide this case soon; and there is no meaningful remedy and arbitrator could impose after the union meetings occurred.  As a result, the County issued an injunction prohibiting the County and Sheriff’s Department, pending arbitration, from requiring them to work during a 24-hour period.

IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro and Union Client Win Over $260,000 Settlement for 86 Union Members.

We are thrilled to announce IDCWLaw Partner Liam L. Castro’s and Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association Vice President Dennis Maurus’ tireless effort and advocacy resulted in a settlement with Nassau County worth over $260,000 for 86 union members, active and retired.  About one year ago, we learned the County withheld federal income taxes that it should not have. The County failed to timely request that money back from the IRS, resulting in a permanent forfeiture of that money.  Once the union and we learned of this, both Mr. Castro and Mr. Maurus contacted over 100 members to ask if we could bring an action against the County.  With almost 100 members’ consent, we filed against the County a Notice of Claim.  Later, we negotiated with the County a full 100% reimbursement of the lost tax monies.  After obtaining 86 signed settlement agreements, and pushing the County to sign it, this week the Nassau County Legislature voted to approve the settlement.

IDCWLaw Partner Howard Wien’s and Our Client’s Recent Agreement Featured in The Chief Leader.

THE CHIEF LEADER MTA’s Deputy Supers, Asst. GMs Gain Pact 

By BOB HENNELLY bhennelly@thechiefleader.com 

Dec 23, 2021

A LONG RIDE PAYS OFF: The leadership of the United Transit Leadership Organization had reason to feel good after completing a contract deal for Metropolitan Transportation Authority managers who five years ago were not entitled to union representation. 

Close to 1,000 managers in the titles of Deputy Superintendent and Assistant General Superintendent with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Headquarters, Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operation Authority, New York City Transit Authority, and MTA bus have secured a new union contract after the agency’s board voted Dec. 15 to approve it.

The contract is the first for the union’s membership in the MTA’s Departments of Subways and Support Services and the second in its Department of Buses.

The 30-month contract is effective July 1, 2019, runs until Dec. 31, and provides two 2-percent raises for employees, whose salaries range from $86,000 to $135,000. 

Union Rights Came Late

The deal was reached almost five years after the Subway-Surface Supervisors Association funded a grass-roots organizing campaign that resulted in the recognition of the United Transit Leadership Organization and the creation of an international union, the National Association of Transportation Supervisors

“At every salary grade we negotiated salary increases and got a commuter pass for Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Railroad as well as for Express Bus,” said Mario Bucceri, president of the UTLO. “And when we got the commuter pass, it even got extended for the non-represented managers.”

He said that checks implementing retroactive pay from the deal, which will be disbursed separately, will total several thousand dollars, with amounts depending on members’ base pay. 

Mr. Bucceri said his union had also codified “significant improvements” in the discipline and grievance processes for his members. “In the past, arbitration was only triggered by a dismissal or demotion—now we have expanded it to 30-day suspensions,” he said.

‘No More Begging’ 

Cassius Pryce, UTLO’s senior vice president of subways, said the formation of the union had dramatically improved the represented positions.

“For years the MTA and New York City Transit had treated their managers as second-class citizens,” Mr. Pryce said. “For a period of several years from 2007 until 2014, they gave us no general wage increase. It was always budgeted to give their managers a 2-percent raise and they just chose not to give it.”

He continued, “Now, instead of begging and crying, now that we have a union it’s totally different. They have to sit down at the table and negotiate with us. They have to talk with us. We never had that before.”

Mr. Pryce said the pandemic, which has killed more than 180 MTA employees, had created a renewed sense of solidarity among his co-workers in the managerial workforce.

‘We Show Up Every Day’

“Most of the senior managerial staff worked remotely and only returned to work on Nov. 15,” he said. “The front-line managers like myself had to show up for work every single day. I cannot run a train from my living room. I have to do it from the Control Room. That’s where I work.”

Mr. Bucceri said that UTLO’s titles had seen a jump in retirements and that the labor shortage had played to the union’s advantage at the bargaining table.

The union president, who started with the MTA as a cleaner in 1982, added that management was having a hard time finding managers from within the transit agency to fill the slots he represents because in the past SSSA members did not want to move into those jobs and lose their union representation.

According to Howard Wien, the attorney for both the UTLO and its international union, the latter successfully petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to “represent employees of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail in New Jersey. We were also successful at getting certification for the buses division at NJ Transit.”

Michael Carrube, president of SSSA and the international president of the NATS, said the pandemic had sparked calls from workers all over the country looking to be organized. “During the last year, because essential workers were getting abused on the job throughout the pandemic and a lot of them were managers…I got a call from a doctor” seeking a union.

IDC&WLaw Secures Second CBA Ratification this Month!

On November 29th, IDC&WLaw client, the United Transit Leadership Organization, secured ratification by its membership of a new collective bargaining agreement with several affiliates of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority by an incredible vote of 387-10, or 97.5%.

The agreement calls for two annual compounded 2% raises over 30 months, improvements to the grievance and arbitration procedures, two employer-paid released union officials, improvements in time and leave policies and an unprecedented increase in the minimum salaries at each salary grade, known as “compression” levels.

The agreement covers approximately 1,000 MTA employees.

Howard Wien served as counsel to the UTLO for these negotiations 

IDCWLaw Negotiates a 5 Year Contract for Municipal Workers With No Give Backs and a COVID Bonus.

For decades, IDC&W Law has helped unions collectively bargain with employers, negotiating long and short term contracts in both the public and private sectors.  Recently, we successfully negotiated a five year contract for a municipal union, with 13.67% total wage increases, compounded over the term, plus an additional hourly wage increase for three of the five year term.  Certain increases were obtained for shift differential and longevity  payments as well as a 25% increase in sick leave.  Last, employees who retire with 10 to 15 years receive 50% health insurance coverage, which increases at 20 years retirement.  A one-time COVID bonus was also secured for qualifying members who worked during the height of the pandemic.

Not only did the relevant legislature ratify that contract, but the membership did as well with over 90% voting YES.

The union was represented by IDC&W Law Partner Steven Isaacs.

IDC&W Law Wins Injunction Against the City of New York

We at IDC&W Law understand the  importance of time off for our hard working union clients. It is particularly critical for first responders.  Recently, in response to the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the City issued a policy to penalize employees who called out sick on ordered overtime with a loss of ability to exchange work shifts with other employees. This rule was so broadly and poorly written, the employee could have been penalized for being quarantined due to exposure to or contracting COVID-19.  While the matter is subject to grievance arbitration, we also fought to ensure that union members would not be harmed while the arbitration is pending. Under a unique provision of New York State law, we  sought court intervention to prevent the City  from implementing the policy change prior to the arbitration hearing.

Despite the Courts regularly denying injunction requests that are related to COVID-19 policies, we were able to successfully  obtain a temporary restraining order in aid of arbitration. The grievance is now pending arbitration and the injunction maintaining the status quo is presently  in effect.

The union was represented by IDC&W Law Partner Liam L. Castro.

Isaacs Devasia Castro & Wien LLP Fights to Keep Essential Workers’ Time Off.

The pandemic showed how important essential workers are. The truth is, they always were. They fought for us when we needed them most, working long hours risking their and their family’s health. That is particularly why their time off is important and sacred. 

In May 2021 the City eliminated the use of compensatory time off for its Fire Alarm Dispatchers; it was previously two slots per shift per borough. IDC&W jumped into action, the next day filing an action in Court seeking a restraining order. Within days, without need for a court order, based upon the strength and persuasiveness of our arguments, the City, and IDC&W and our client resolved the matter ensuring that the Fire Alarm Dispatchers’ compensatory time off was preserved. This City also agreed to grant all prior requests for compensatory time that were denied.

*PLEASE NOTE OUR NEW FIRM NAME AND ADDRESS BELOW.
Liam L. Castro, Esq.Isaacs Devasia Castro & Wien, LLP80 Broad Street, 5th floor | New York, NY 10004

Tel: 917.551.1300/917.837.7121| e-mail: lcastro@koehler-isaacs.com

Koehler & Isaacs LLP Adds New Partners and Is Now Isaacs Devasia Castro & Wien LLP

We are pleased to announce that Koehler & Isaacs LLP has added three new partners and will now be known as Isaacs Devasia Castro & Wien LLP. At this time, with mixed emotions, we also announce the retirement of Founding Partner, Richard J. Koehler from the firm. 

The new partners are long-time associates Cynthia Devasia, Liam Castro and Howard Wien who have a collective sixty years of litigating, mediating, and negotiating legal issues affecting workers and public and private sector labor unions and employee fringe benefit funds. All three have extensive experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements and conducting hundreds of labor arbitrations litigating disciplinary charges, contract grievance violations and line of duty injury benefits. They also advise our union and employee benefits clients in corporate governance and regulatory compliance matters. In their own way, each has been an indispensable asset to the firm and our clients: 

Our clients have benefited from Ms. Devasia’s extensive federal court practice entailing novel Constitutional claims, civil rights (plaintiff and defense), and employee benefits litigation including ERISA delinquency actions leading to the collection of millions of dollars in plan assets.  Ms. Devasia is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law where she has taught doctrinal law and legal writing, research, and lawyering skills. 

Our clients have found Mr. Castro’s representation in state court matters essential to obtaining injunctive relief protecting against excessive work hours and preserving worker’s pay, leave time, and health benefits.  He also has a successful track record in appellate advocacy arguing in three of the four Appellate Divisions and also before the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, where he was victorious each time.  

Our clients have thrived under Mr. Wien’s guidance in forming local and national level labor unions, protecting the rights of public sector supervisory workers to organize, running successful union organizing campaigns, and navigating the intricacies of internal union disputes. Mr. Wien is a former Commissioner of the Yonkers Commission of Human Rights and also a trained mediator and experienced arbitrator.  

“Cynthia, Liam, and Howard epitomize the dedication and exemplary service our firm provides.  They are exceptionally talented, have been an integral part of our long-standing success and we look forward to continuing the same high-caliber and innovative legal representation we have provided for over 20 years,” said Founding Partner Steven A. Isaacs. 

The firm was founded under the Koehler & Isaacs moniker in 1999 by Mr. Isaacs and Richard J. Koehler, a longtime labor relations advocate and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction and New York City Police Department Chief of Personnel, as a unique, full service law firm designed to meet the legal needs of working families, their unions and their employee benefit funds.  The firm has represented clients in various public and private sector industries including law enforcement, security, transportation, education and construction. During this time, Mr. Koehler has been our captain, guiding force, and a man widely respected for his service to his clients, the legal profession, his City and Country.  We wish him the very best and thank him for his stewardship and, more importantly, the many years of friendship. 

More information about Isaacs Devasia Castro & Wien LLP can be found at www.idcwlaw.com.

Isaacs, Devasia, Castro & Wien LLP Saves Jobs and Secures Enforcement of Fundamental Union Rights

Your Privacy is not Private: Social Media and Employee Discipline

Social Media platforms provide an easy way to engage with “friends” and share your opinions. All social media platforms currently provide “privacy” settings by which you can limit the recipients of your posts to those you have selected as your friends. So, you should feel secure that what you say on social media will not come back to haunt you. WRONG! NOTHING IS TRULY PRIVATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

That lack of privacy has direct consequences for union members. YOU CAN AND WILL BE PUNISHED FOR WHAT YOU SAY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. In the private sector, the only question is whether there is some connection between your comments and your job. If you post carelessly, your comments may be perceived as racist or sexist and you may be disciplined for those comments simply by virtue of the fact that all employees in the United States are expected to be able to work with others regardless of race, religion, gender or other legally protected characteristics.  Even outside the scope of bigotry, adverse comments about your employer can lead to discipline as employees are expected to maintain a reasonable degree of loyalty to the employer during their employment. 

In the public sector, employees are protected by the First Amendment but only to a point. Although the First Amendment protects your comments on issues of public concern, comments on social media that make their way to the workplace and cause “disruption” can result in discipline.  This is particularly true when you express your opinions on hot button issues with words of hostility or where your comments are race or gender based. Consider the following, which was the subject of an employee discipline case recently handled by Isaacs, Devasia, Castro & Wien LLP. 

Remember, white people: Your sole purpose during this time is to protect people of color while they’re destroying the city. Obey. Submit.” 

This post, on the employee’s supposedly private social media account resulted in his suspension from employment, the employer’s attempt to terminate his employment, an arbitration hearing where the Arbitrator found termination inappropriate but imposed a six month, multi-level demotion, with corresponding loss of pay, a time-served suspension, and an ultimately unsuccessful appeal by the employer to the courts in an attempt to have the arbitration award thrown out.  

The quoted post was stated in sarcasm. It was a response to a prior post stating that there should be more violence and property destruction in police misconduct protest and that the role of sympathetic white people was to be a “white wall” protecting ethnic minorities while they commit riotous acts. The sarcasm was intended to indicate opposition to both the call for violence and the race based roles in the prior post. 

The comment, however, caused extensive outrage among co-workers, was widely reported in the news media and was the repeated subject of a podcast popular among this employee’s co-workers. Additionally, many of the employee’s subordinates wrote to the employer demanding discipline and stating that they could not work under the employee’s supervision. The comment, finally, was deemed by the arbitrator to reflect the employee’s “racist attitude” and imposed the penalty discussed above. Imagine how different things would have been if the employee has simply stated: “I find your call for violence and your bigotry to be wrong and offensive.”  Clearly, there is nothing outrageous or racist about this comment which would have saved the employee months of anxiety, public humiliation and tens of thousands of dollars. The lesson: Speak your mind, but do so with care. 

The additional lesson is; union representation matters. Had the employee not been represented by a labor union, he would have been fired with no recourse. The First Amendment, here, provided no protection because of the disruption in the workplace and it was only the union collective bargaining agreement and its clause prohibiting termination without just cause that saved this employee. That clause required arbitration which although final and binding on paper was still subject to an appeal by the public employer. Such an appeal, known as an “application to vacate an arbitration award,” meant that the Arbitrator’s decision remained unenforceable for many months after it was issued. Only after Isaacs, Devasia, Castro & Wien LLP secured a victory for the employee and the union, did he return to his original position with the employer. 

It cannot be overstated. Absent a labor union contract, most employees work in an “at-will” environment meaning they can be terminated for any reason, no reason, or even bad reason, so long as the termination isn’t independently illegal under anti-discrimination statutes. Even with civil service protection, the hearing a public employee is entitled to is not before an independent body. The hearing officer is an employee or contractor hired by the public employer and the ultimate decision is made by the public employer. Only arbitration gained through collective bargaining provides for an independent evaluation in disciplinary cases. Again, union representation matters. 

Isaacs, Devasia, Castro & Wien LLP is expert in the intricacies of collective bargaining, arbitration and litigation with respect to arbitration awards and is proud to have achieved these results for the union and it member. 

Howard Wien represented the union in this matter.