Immigrants’ firing leads to protest

15 women lose jobs after attending rally; manager says they were warned

Via The Detroit Free Press

April 11, 2006


photo

Activists
wait to see the owner of the Wolverine Packing Co. in Detroit on
Monday. Speaking with Elena Herrada are, from left, Ignacio Meneses,
Rosendo Delgado and company worker Steve Reppenhagen. (MARY
SCHROEDER/Detroit Free Press)


A manager at a Detroit meatpacking plant said Monday that 15
immigrant women were fired last month after attending a protest for
immigrant rights. He said they had been told that they would be
terminated if they missed work on the day of the protest.

But the
workers and an activist working on their behalf said the women were
given no such assurances. If the workers knew they would have been
fired for attending the March 27 rally in Detroit, they never would
have skipped the morning shift, said Elena Herrada, a Detroit activist
who is trying to help the women get their jobs back.

Herrada and
about 20 union officials went Monday to Wolverine Packing Co. offices
on Rivard to inquire about what happened. They were given a letter
signed by general manager Jay Bonahoom, explaining why the workers were
terminated.

Meanwhile Monday, marches were held in Washington,
D.C., Atlanta and other cities to protest proposed changes in
immigration rules. On Sunday, hundreds gathered at Holy Redeemer
Catholic Church in Detroit.

Some of the Wolverine workers were
undocumented, Herrada and one of the workers said, and wanted to march
in the Detroit rally to show their support for immigrant rights.

Tens
of thousands of people, mostly Latinos, protested legislation that
would make it a crime to help undocumented immigrants. The next
morning, when the women reported to work for their shifts as meat
cutters, a supervisor told them to clean out their lockers and go home.

Bonahoom
said that as far as Wolverine knows, the workers were documented, but
an employment agency does the actual hiring. He said the workers had
been told, “written and verbally,” on the Friday before the protests
that their attendance was mandatory on the day of the protest.

They were fired “for standing up for their rights,” Herrada said.

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