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Jimmy Van Bramer Joins Trade Fair Workers in Ongoing Labor Dispute

LONG ISLAND CITY — A group of union meat workers, who say they've been locked out of their jobs at Trade Fair supermarkets across Queens for the past month, got a pair of new allies on Monday: City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and his 73-year-old mother.

The Long Island City rep rallied with dozens of meat workers outside the Trade Fair on 36th Avenue on Monday, and gave a speech alongside his mother, Elizabeth Marcum, who worked for years as a meat wrapper at the Key Food on 30th Avenue when he was growing up.

"We could afford the rent and we could live because of these jobs — union jobs," Van Bramer told the crowd. "My mother and father wanted to work, and I know that you want to work."

The workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 342, say they were locked out of their jobs after staging a strike against unfair labor practices three weeks ago, according to Jerry Minetello, a communications officer for the union.

The workers allege they were intimidated and harassed by management for handing out union leaflets on their lunch breaks protesting Trade Fair's plan to cut their hours and health benefits, Minetello said.

The workers held a brief strike in early March, and they have not been allowed to return to their jobs since, despite having made an unconditional offer to go back to work, Minetello said. He said the union has filed charges against Trade Fair with the National Labor Relations Board.

Signs posted outside several of the Queens supermarket locations notify customers of a possible "disruption" from the picketing workers and said the company is "proud that we provide top-notch wages, fringes and working conditions for our meat department."

"We have no comment other than that we are negotiating with the union," said Martin Jacobson, who identified himself as a financial consultant for Trade Fair.

Juan Guerrero, 39, said he's worked with the company for 12 years at its location in Richmond Hill. He said he is the primary breadwinner in his family and has been struggling for the last few weeks without work.

"It's very difficult," he said in Spanish, through a translator.

Van Bramer said he will continue to publicly exert pressure on Trade Fair to end the lockout and come to an agreement with the union.

"In honor of my mother, keep fighting and we will win," he told the crowd.