Tag: Objections

Baltimore City Council approves worker recall bill over law department, hotel industry objections

The Baltimore City Council on Monday passed legislation aimed at protecting hospitality workers’ jobs, despite objections from the city’s law department and the hotel industry.

The bill would require hospitality businesses to hire laid-off workers once they reopen. Thousands of housekeepers, banquet servers and other employees have lost their jobs as the industry suffers from the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns.

The council also passed a second, less-contested bill that would ensure a hotel retains its staff if the business’ ownership changes hands.

The bills now head to the mayor’s desk for his consideration. Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has not indicated whether he plans to sign them, but issued a statement via a spokesman saying he will review the legislation.

Hotel workers have rallied around the bills, saying they’re looking for some certainty that they will eventually get to go back to work.

More than 1,500 hospitality workers had lost their jobs as of mid-September at hotels, the Baltimore Convention Center, Royal Farms Arena and other event centers, according to UNITE HERE Local 7, the union that represents them.

Other cities, including Los Angeles, have taken similar steps to protect workers.

But the Young administration’s law department said the return-to-work bill was not the right way to help workers. It said legislation mandating an employer rehire a laid-off person is “an unconstitutional impairment of the employer/employee freedom of contract.”

That legal interpretation was dismissed by other attorneys who testified before the City Council, including those with the Public Justice Center.

The Maryland Hotel Lodging Association also opposed the legislation. Representatives said the bills would strip them of flexibility to recover from the economic crisis, as it would require them to hire employees back based on seniority. That may not align with their immediate needs, they said.

Workers with years of experience in the industry testified to the council in favor of the bill. William Murray, a longtime banquet server at Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, told the council he’s been laid off since March.

“The COVID-19 crisis has hit our industry hard,” he said. “We have stood by our employer and made them successful for years. We deserve the right to have some certainty that we will be able to return to our jobs.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott introduced a bill to establish a program to provide some tenants with legal counsel during eviction proceedings.

Housing activists are bracing for a wave of evictions as COVID-19 continues to wreak economic turmoil. They’ve long pushed for the city to provide tenants with free lawyers when they face being kicked out of their homes.

A recent study, funded by the Abell Foundation, estimates it would cost $5.7 million to provide about 7,000 tenants with representation. By keeping people out of homelessness, the study said it would save more than six times that. It also found that 96% of landlords had representation to argue their cases in rent court, while only 1% of tenants had

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Court Upholds NYC Chokehold Law over Police Union Objections

A New York City law banning the use of chokeholds by police was upheld in a state court on Monday, following a challenge by police unions.

The legislation was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in July in reaction to massive demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers. New York saw a related controversy in 2014, when an NYPD officer attempted to arrest resident Eric Garner, but killed Garner after placing him in a chokehold. Former NYPD commissioner James O’Neill fired the officer in 2019, following a recommendation from a police judge.

The New York City Council in July 2020 passed a law by councilman Rory Lancman, a Democrat from Queens, banning the use of chokeholds by a vote of 47-3. The law was upheld in a ruling by Judge Laurence L. Love of the 1st Judicial District branch of the New York Supreme Court.

“The need to protect both police officers and the public is a vital and fundamental function of society and it is essential that sufficient safeguards exist to allow officers to safely perform their duties while ensuring the safety of the general public and individuals being taken into custody,” Laurence wrote his the ruling.

Police unions alleged that the law banning chokeholds would cause “irreparable harm” to the ability of officers to carry out their duties since chokeholds are one of the only tactics by which they can restrain a violent suspect. But Laurence disagreed.

“The court finds that Plaintiffs allegations of ‘irreparable harm’ are entirely speculative and without merit,” Laurence wrote. “While plaintiffs contend that their due process rights are violated by the existence of the [chokehold law], the reality of the situation is the opposite.”

Lancman applauded the ruling after its release.

“Time for the [NYPD] to embrace reality, and maybe(?) become partners for reform instead of obstacles,” Lancman wrote on Twitter.

The George Floyd demonstrations caused some city governments, including in Minneapolis, New York, and Seattle, to consider police reforms and to direct funding away from police departments for the 2020 fiscal year. However, the measures have fallen short of some activists’ demands to completely “defund” police departments.

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