Monday, February 8, 2010

Episcopal Church Workers Abruptly Fired

In my preparations to teach an ethics course for our diocesan school for deacons, I've been thinking a lot about justice. And so the story about the abrupt firing of nine workers at the Episcopal Church Center caught my eye. The New York Daily News has the scoop:

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. ...

"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. ...

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 it all.

It might be interesting to ask my students how they think all of this squares with the Baptismal Covenant promise to "respect the dignity of every human being."


plsdeacon said...

While I, personally, don't have a problem with seeking a less expensive contract for cleaning services, I find it interesting that the same leadership that marched for the unions at Disneyland are now moving to a non-union company for cleaning services. Hmmm. Unions are good, except when they cost us more money directly.

BTW, as much as I don't like 815, I would have to say that they did not "fire" anyone. The previous cleaning company did. They merely changed cleaning companies. To say that TEC fired people is wrong. I think it would be a nice gesture to ask the new company to hire as many of the current employees as possible.

Phil Snyder

Steve Hayes said...

It seems that church groups are very little different from those in the world when it comes to the way they treat employees, even if they are indirect employees.

Joe Rawls said...

Phil, I think you're splitting hairs. 815 is responsible for those people being unemployed, even if it was not their "direct" employer. Of course, I've been a member of the Communication Workers of America for 30 years, so I am doubtless biased in this matter.

plsdeacon said...


It was still the maintenance company that decided to let the employees go, not 815. It could have kept them on the payroll or worked to find some other place to employ them. It could have asked that 815 ask the new company to hire some, if not all, of the old employees. I don't know if it did any of these things, but the decision to fire was not 815's.

That being said, 815 is still showing its "economic justice doesn't apply to us" face to the world. I am tired of the "rules" applying to everyone but those in power.

Phil Snyder

JC Fremont said...

Those of a politically Liberal bent seem to care about justice (in their public utterances), but rarely exercise themselves to achieve it. Hopefully, the workers who were let go will find employment soon.