N.Y.C. Sues Jail Officers, Saying Illegal Strike Worsened Rikers Crisis

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The lawsuit says there was no plausible explanation for the “shocking” number of absenteeism by corrections officers this year other than a convincing and illegal job slump.

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New York City sued a union representing its prison officers on Monday, saying the ongoing crisis on Rikers Island due to staff absenteeism led to an illegal strike, leaving employees and detainees alike. put in danger.


The lawsuit, filed in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, states that the union, the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, and its leadership condemned a coordinated campaign of absenteeism during the year that led to a sharp decline in quality of life. In the infamous prison complex.

The lawsuit was filed just a day after a Bronx man died on the island, bringing the total number of people killed in the custody of the city’s Department of Corrections to 11 this year.

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The city noted what it called a dramatic increase in absences without permission since the start of the year.

While it recorded an average of 645 such absences per month in 2019 and 773 such absences in 2020, this year has averaged 2,304 per month, an increase the lawsuit described as “shocking”.

“There is no plausible explanation for this dramatic increase across the board other than a concerted effort by corrections officials to contain an unlawful job slump through mass absenteeism,” the suit said. Such action was illegal under the laws governing the city’s behavior. employees.

The suit asked the court to restrain the union and its leadership from striking or contributing to a strike of any kind, and requested punitive monetary damages from the union and its leadership if they did not comply.

Eric Eichenholtz, head of the city’s law department’s Department of Labor and Employment, said in a statement that while most Department of Corrections employees were showing up to work, the union was “actively encouraging or Forgiving others for abandoning their fellow officers.”

In response, the union, which sued the city in July for promoting inhuman working conditions at Rikers, called the lawsuit frivolous and “fact-less,” aimed directly at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“This unqualified lawsuit falsely accuses COBA of encouraging our members to take job action and not come to work,” said union president Benny Bossio Jr. We call on all labor unions in New York and anyone who supports essential workers. Tell Mayor de Blasio to stop busting the union and start making our prisons safe for everyone today. “

Sunday’s death at Rikers of 42-year-old Isabdul Karim added further emphasis to the crisis of underprivileged there, leading to a slowdown in the overall functioning of the prison, delaying the delivery of basic necessities including food, water and medical care, and a rise in the number of cases. Violent episodes.

According to the Department of Corrections, Mr. Karim, a father of two children, died in the early hours of Sunday. He was being represented by the Legal Aid Society, which said that he had contracted Covid-19 while staying in one of the overcrowded cells of the jail premises for 10 days. The official cause of his death has not yet been determined.

It is nearly impossible for the captives to distance themselves within the intake cells, in which they are often packed and forced to sleep head-to-toe on the floor.

Mr Bossio has called on the mayor to appoint thousands more corrections officers to help restore some level of normalcy in Rikers. But a federal monitor that oversees the troubled prison has said the number of officers is substantial, and the problem instead lies with a significant increase in absenteeism that began soon after the coronavirus hit New York and has since multiplied. Is.

The coronavirus has hit the city’s prisons hard, infecting 2,300 employees of the Department of Corrections as well as 1,554 people. But it’s not clear how many workers were absent this year – especially those who came without any prior warning – because of the virus.

The union has taken an increasingly belligerent stance against Mr. de Blasio, who issued an emergency plan last week after a group of state and city lawmakers visited the facility and, upon his return, a humanitarian crisis on Rikers. Described what was happening in the form.

Mr. de Blasio’s plan included the suspension of any corrections officer who was absent without notice or leave. (Later in the week, 21 such suspensions were handed out.) In response, Mr. Bossio’s union called for him to retire.

mass ransom Contributed to reporting.

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