A public employees’ union and the Village of Mineola’s public works chief are clashing over the removal of signs the union placed on public property to honor essential workers.
The United Public Service Employees Union (UPSEU) had put up six signs. Five of the signs, one at Mineola Village Hall, two at Mineola central garage, one down the block from the garage and one in front of the Mineola Public Library, were then taken down. The last sign, in front of Mineola Memorial Park, is still standing.
The Ronkonkoma-based union strongly criticized Department of Public Works Superintendent Thomas Rini in a statement.
“What did Village Superintendent Rini do? He removed them,” the statement continues. “Thomas Rini’s actions are a disgrace, and by his actions he obviously couldn’t care less about these dedicated employees’ heroic efforts. Mr. Rini, if there is a hall of shame for Superintendents of DPW’s, you deserve high honors!!”
In an emailed statement to Blank Slate Media, Rini said that no union representative had reached out before the signs were posted, and the removal was a routine matter required by law. He said the village saluted all front-line workers.
“Unfortunately, no representative from the United Public Service Employees Union reached out to the Village regarding the placement of any signage on government property, or in the public right of way,” Rini wrote. “As required by Nassau County Ordinance, the village and its employees routinely remove similar signs placed on utility poles and lawn signs placed on Village property and on the right of way throughout the year.”
Brandon Nasierowski, a labor relations representative for UPSEU, later told Blank Slate Media that the union represents workers in the Village of Mineola, the Mineola Public Library and most employees in the Mineola school district.
“We did file a formal complaint that same day with the village regarding the signs being taken down,” Nasierowski said.
Rini added in his statement that had a representative “reached out to discuss the idea of honoring our Village employees who have served throughout the pandemic, we would have gladly worked together with them and educated and guided them on how to properly place such signage.”
“The Village of Mineola salutes all front line workers, health care workers and first responders who have served our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rini wrote. “The Village of Mineola has, and will, continue to thank all of its employees who have served throughout this pandemic … the Village looks forward to working with United Public Service Employees Union to properly recognize all of its members’ efforts during these challenging times.”
Nasierowski could not say if the union would contact the village concerning putting the signs up again.