The demonstrations swept cities from Florida and Oklahoma to Tennessee and New York, but many workers complained that their bosses gave them the boot for skipping out on work to join the peaceful protests. For instance, close to 20 workers from Bradley Coatings, Inc., a commercial painting company in Nolensville, Tenn., claimed they were terminated after taking part in the nationwide strike on Feb. 16, NBC4 reported.
“We are the team leaders directly under the supervisors and they informed us last night that we could not go back to work and the boss said we were fired,” a former employee told the news station, adding that the workers who joined in the “Day Without Immigrants” protests planned to make up their missed day of work on a Sunday.
In a statement obtained by NBC4, company attorney Robert Peal said all workers had been warned that their jobs were on the line if they missed work that Thursday; 18 employees in all went to the protests anyway.
“Regretfully, and consistent with its prior communication to all its employees, BCI had no choice but to terminate these individuals,” Peal said. “The reason these employees missed work — to engage in peaceful demonstrations — had nothing to do with BCI’s decision to terminate them.”
Telemundo 47 also reported that 25 employees of Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant & Caterers in Long Island, N.Y., were fired upon their return to work following the protest. The restaurant vehemently denied the claims in a statement, saying that it had actually voiced support for its workers’ rights but requested that they show up for their shifts on Thursday.
“While some employees opted to participate in the walkout, several others chose to work and, as a result, the leaders of the protest put pressure on the others to walk out, even threatening physical harm to colleagues choosing to work their shifts,” the statement read, adding that the company owner saw the threats as grounds to fire the workers who made them.
Several business owners are firmly standing by their decision to fire workers who took part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protest. Jim Serowski, the founder of JVS Masonry in Commerce City, Colo., told CNN he knew several of his employees planned to participate in the strike and fired 30 some-odd bricklayers who failed to show up for work on Thursday.
“If you’re going to stand up for what you believe in, you have to be willing to pay the price,” Serowski said, adding that the decision to terminate his workers wasn’t politically motivated. “It’s about work ethic.”
Steve Deese, owner of Encore Boat Builders in Lexington, S.C., also laid off 21 workers who didn’t show up for work on Thursday. Deese told CNN the employees violated company policy by failing to notify him that they’d be missing work. The businessman said his company doesn’t tolerate violations of any kind, so he fired the workers. Twenty-one new workers are currently being trained to take the spots of the old ones, CNN reported.