Workers And Ex-employee Protest Outside 32BJ
"They paid attention to what we had to say. But if they donâ€™t do the right thing, then weâ€™re willing to do it again. Even if we have to sleep outside; protest in the streets and take it to Washington if we have too.â€
Three building engineers held a demonstration today and yesterday to protest what they allege to have been inadequate representation by their union Local 32BJ when they were mistreated by their employer First Quality Maintenance (FQM).
The protest today was outside headquarters of 32BJ and yesterday in front of Trinity Church's headquarters. FQM operates the properties, owned by Trinity. "We came to Trinity because we are hoping they can help stop the retaliation against us," says Antonio Lanzarotta, one of the demonstrators.
Union officials have strongly denied to The Black Star News that the union didn't vigorously act on the workers' and ex-employee's behalf.
One of the engineers, Prince Valcarel, says he was wrongfully fired two years ago from his job as an engineer at a FQM-operated building. He says the union never took the matter to arbitration, which would have restored his job. “It’s about getting my job back,” Valcarcel said.
The trio say they met with union officials today and say they were promised their allegations would be investigated and, even though officials said they could make no promises or commitment, that they would respond. “It was promising. They’re going to look into the matter and come up with answer in a few weeks,” Valcarcel said.
Union officials have previously denied that they didn't adequately represent the engineers. A spokesman said the union worked hard on behalf of the employees, and even found a new job for Valcarcel but that he wasn't willing to take the position.
The other two employees, Melvin Munoz and Lanzarotta still work at FQM. In addition to publicizing their own greivances the pair is in solidarity with Valcarcel.
Munoz said his employer, FQM, owes him nearly $100,000. He says he was underpaid, at a lower wage rate, even though he has an engineer’s license, for over two years. “They didn’t want us protesting outside. They were not happy," he says, of today's demonstration.
Antonio Lanzarotta says he was retaliated against by his employee, FQM, and that the union failed to represent him, later forcing him to hire a private lawyer. Lanzarotta eventually got his job back, after he had been wrongfully terminated. He was awarded back-pay for the period when he was out but has yet to receive his check from FQM or be allowed to pursue a retaliation case, he says.
“What we accomplished today, was communication," he says. "They paid attention to what we had to say. But if they don’t do the right thing, then we’re willing to do it again. Even if we have to sleep outside; protest in the streets and take it to Washington if we have too.”
"Speaking Truth To Empower."
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