From The Daily News (NYC):
February 7th 2010, 4:00 AM
They worked for years cleaning and maintaining the Episcopal Church Center in midtown Manhattan. But after they were fired on Dec. 30, nine hard-working people are in desperate need of divine intervention.
"We came to work on Dec. 30 as every day, hoping to leave a little earlier to celebrate the new year," said Bronx native Héctor Miranda, a father of three. "But when we got to the building we were told that we no longer worked there. Just like that. They picked the date well to fire us."
Now, without the means to support his family, Miranda has no idea how he will pay the rent.
"Even worse," he said, "without health coverage I don't know how I am going to pay for my wife's treatment. She is a diabetic, you know."
The workers lost their jobs - which paid standard wages and benefits - when the church canceled the contract with Paris Maintenance, a union cleaning contractor, and replaced it with the nonunion Benjamin Enterprises.
The workers belong to SEIU Local 32BJ, which is helping them organize demonstrations outside the church to protest what the union calls "the unlawful termination" of the porters - and to demand that they be offered jobs by the new contractor.
"We have called Benjamin Enterprises and asked to keep our jobs, but we haven't received any response," the workers said in a letter addressed to presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and to Bonnie Anderson, president of the church's house of deputies.
"We believe that the Episcopal Church would not want to create more poverty in this world, so we are hopeful that the church will do everything in its power to help us regain our jobs," the letter said. It was signed by, among others, Max Fullner and Raymond Hines, who worked at the church for 42 years; Ives Jean Pierre, 39 years, and Ahmed Alsaidy, 27 years. The way they were just suddenly terminated after all those years of service speaks volumes to the injustice done to them.
Last Thursday, more than 100 people gathered in front of the church to support the workers and ask church officials to help them get their jobs back.
"They [church officials] just looked out the windows," said Colombian-born Andrea Saavedra, 32, who worked at the church building for two years and 16 for Paris Maintenance.
"It needs to be clear that looking for a new contract is a normal business procedure," said church spokeswoman Neva Rae Fox.
But a church is not supposed to be a business and Saavedra, the single mother of a 12-year-old daughter, said: "One would expect better from church people, one would expect them to be examples of fairness and kindness."
For Alsaidy, an immigrant from Yemen and an American citizen, losing his job has been devastating. The father of six frets about losing the family's health care coverage.
"I have to work to support my family," said a desperate Alsaidy. If I cannot make the mortgage we could lose our house."
Linda Watts, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church, put out an official statement: "Budget constraints have prompted The Episcopal Church to review all contracts and to implement cost-cutting measures where possible," she said. No mention of the plight of the nine men and women thrown out to the streets or of lending them a helping hand.
"Good luck, we wish you all the best," read the note the workers found in their lockers on Dec. 30. The only thing missing was "Happy New Year."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2010/02/07/2010-02-07_abruptly_fired_church_crew_needs_miracle.html#ixzz0ewZb8KYU
hat tip: Fr. Dick Kim