in one of the most publicized and sharpest-toned labor disputes to emerge in New York City in years. The Service Employees International Union, in a campaign that has entered public consciousness through leafletting and newspaper advertising, is charging Citicorp with unscrupulous hiring policies that lower living standards for minorities. The contentions came into view earlier this year when Service Employees' Local 32B-32J used posters in the New York subways and at bus stops to make its allegations in both English and Spanish. The dispute centers on a move by Citicorp to replace its longstanding, union-affiliated cleaning staff with Golden Mark, an out-of-town contractor that the bank says is affiliated with AFL-CIO Local 445. Hoping to turn the public against Citicorp, Local 32B-32J also threw into its communications the fact that Citibank has gotten low ratings on its pricing - both account fees and deposit interest rates - from the New York City Public Advocate, a government agency. Golden Mark, according to Local 32B-32J, pays its predominantly Hispanic and African-American workers around $6 an hour, compared with the $13 paid to Service Employees International Union members. The latter union estimates that it represents about 70,000, mostly minority building service workers in New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey. The union recently extended its campaign to advertisements in The New York Times and New York Daily News and has begun handing out fliers around New York City, asking residents not to patronize Citicorp. "We're trapped in a dispute between two unions," said Susan Weeks, a Citicorp spokeswoman. According to Ms. Weeks, Citicorp began using Golden Mark in 1988 to clean its branches in Brooklyn and Staten Island. The bank hired the same company last year to clean its branches in Manhattan and Queens after soliciting competitive bids, replacing around 100 workers from Tempco, a company with workers in Local 32B-32J. Ms. Weeks added that cleaning service vendors affiliated with 32B-32J still "represent around 70% of our cleaning contracts in New York." She emphasized that the bank puts a wide range of support services, including telephone and travel, out for competitive bidding. She also noted that the union did not object to the original change in contractors seven years ago. Union officials were unavailable for comment. However, in a letter to Gannet Outdoor Group, the company handling the subway and bus stop posters, union lawyer Ronald Rabb of Manning, Raab, Dealy & Sturm disputed the Citicorp's claims that the posters "contain misleading information . . . and are designed to create a false impression." Mr. Raab alleged that the bidding process was far from competitive because contractors affiliated with 32B-32J have agreements with the union to pay $13 an hour and provide benefits including health care, and could not bid lower. "We pay Golden Mark, and Golden Mark pays its employees," Ms. Weeks said. As to allegations that Citicorp's banking practices are unscrupulous, Ms. Weeks stated: "We've always encouraged our customers to shop around for the best price/value relationship. "We have 1.5 million households who are customers in New York City and 45 million customers around the world, so we must be doing something right."
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