A Broad Coalition of Workers-Rights Organizations Demands An End to Unjust Firings

The campaign hit the ground running when it launched in January. Two protests were held this week.

Blake McMillan Feb 15, 2023

On Sunday, over 30 groups joined forces at Athens Square in Astoria, Queens to denounce unjust firings before going door-to-door in the neighborhood to educate residents about unjust firings. The rally was led by the Amazon Labor Union, Make the Road New York, United Auto Workers, DSA-NYC and City Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, all members of the Secure Jobs NYC coalition. 

In the small amphitheater of Athens Square, dozens of protestors joined with chants of “I believe that we will win!” and signs that said, “Stop unjust firings!” Visitors of the park, seated at tables and on benches, took notice.

Socialist City Council Member Tiffany Cabán of Queens spoke at the event. “Our neighbors are talking to their neighbors about ending unjust arbitrary firings in New York City,” she told The Indypendent. “There are unjust firings here in New York. This is the state, the city, the country where we have at-will employment. Your boss can fire you at any time, for any reason.”

The Secure Jobs Act would prohibit employers from firing workers without a just cause. The measure, introduced in the Council in December, would expand the city’s 2020 law prohibiting fast-food employers from firing workers without “just cause” or “a bona fide economic reason” to cover all employees. Cabán said it would require employers to give workers advance warning that they might get fired, a written explanation of the reasons why and an opportunity to appeal the decision.

Cabán is the primary sponsor of the proposal. So far, only nine of the Council’s 51 members have signed on as sponsors. Restaurant trade groups are challenging the fast-food just-cause law in federal court, appealing a judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit last year.

“This is the state, the city, the country where we have at-will employment. Your boss can fire you at any time, for any reason.”

“It’s just such a basic common-sense thing that we’re fighting for,” said Cabán on Sunday. “The workers that are most affected by this, they’re low wage workers, their Black and Brown workers, they’re immigrant workers, they’re queer workers, they’re overwhelmingly women, and you know, trans and gender non-conforming folks.”

Amy Pinilla is a campaign organizer at Make the Road NY and Secure Jobs NYC. “A lot of workers don’t even know at-will employment exists, she said to The Indy. “They don’t know it’s something that impacts them.”

Athens is only a block west of the 30th Avenue subway station in Astoria. Pinilla felt that Sunday, a day only the working class would be commuting to or from work, would be the best time to engage with the surrounding community. “We’re catching people as they’re coming out of work and letting them know about at will employment the fact that this is a bill that will directly impact them and their families,” said Pinilla “We have a coalition of 30 organizations that have committed their members, their staff, and their organizers to throwing down to get this bill passed. Because of them and all the amazing volunteers that came out today, I feel really fired up.”

The Secure Jobs NYC coalition includes a wide array of groups, from labor unions (including Amazon Labor Union, Teamsters Local 804 and UAW Region 9A) to worker associations (including National Domestic Worker Alliance and the Laundry Workers Center, Brandworkers) to community organizations (including Make The Road NY, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, and African Communities Together), to employer groups like Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, to political organizations like Democratic Socialists of America’s NYC Chapter.

Since launching in January, the Secure Jobs Coalition has been regularly holding events, including an art build where attendees made protest banners and posters, rallies and marches. On Tuesday, the coalition led a march from Columbus Circle to the Metropolitan Social Club, where one of its members, Mary, was recently fired without cause. Mary was surprised to find that in one of the most progressive cities in the country, her seemingly random dismissal fit within the confines of the law. 

“I was blindsided, shocked, and hurt. Not only for the financial hardship but about looking in my children’s eyes and telling them that I was fired unjustly and there is nothing illegal about it,” said Mary to a lively group of picketers outside of the Metropolitan Social club on Tuesday. With her supporters behind her, Mary handed a letter to her former employer demanding she be treated with the same respect as the club’s members. 

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