Business Owners Stand by Decision to Fire Workers who Protested
Posted: Feb 20, 2017 3:12 PM CST
(CNN)Jim Serowski's employees told him they'd planned to skip work Thursday to participate in "A Day Without Immigrants," the nationwide day of protest.
Serowski, founder of JVS Masonry in Commerce City, Colorado, said his position to them was clear: "If you're going to stand up for what you believe in, you have to be willing to pay the price."
As promised, when Serowski's foreman and some 30 bricklayers failed to show up for work, he fired them all with no regrets, he said.
People who skipped work -- and businesses that closed -- on Thursday aimed to demonstrate immigrants' combined contribution to the nation's economy in the face of President Donald Trump's tough stance on immigration.
Many simply went back to work Friday. But several business owners and managers told CNN that their decision to fire people who joined the protest wasn't about politics or immigration but about running their businesses responsibly.
"I stand by what I believe in. I didn't do anything wrong," he said by phone Sunday. "They were warned: 'If you do this, you're hurting the company, and if you go against the team, you're not a member of the team.'"
His foreman told CNN affiliate KDVR that it was important for him and his co-workers to join the protest. Some of his masonry workers have relatives who are afraid to leave their homes out of fear they may get arrested or deported, he said.
But Serowski said it was a slap in the face to people like himself, who have long supported immigrant labor. He said he's known many of his employees for nearly two decades and has ensured they were paid, even when he did not have work for them.
"I've gone above and beyond for these people," he said, seemingly distraught. "No one is going to dictate how my company is run."
Steve Deese, owner of Encore Boat Builders in Lexington, South Carolina, confirmed firing 21 employees who didn't show up Thursday.
Deese said they broke company policy by not giving notice and not calling in to say they would be away from work. The employees were given an opportunity to provide a doctor's note, but failed to do so, he added.
The company does not tolerate violations, no matter who the employees are, he said.
Deese's company builds boats "to make money, so when we can't build boats, we don't make money," Deese said. "We run an assembly line, and when 21 people call out, that seriously affects our operation."
Those 21 employees were replaced by new workers who are now being trained.
Robert Peal, attorney for Bradley Coatings, Inc., based in Nashville, confirmed to CNN that 18 employees were terminated for failing to show up Thursday.
Peal said one of the line supervisors, an immigrant, was alerted to the possibility of the no-shows and spoke to each employee individually, warning them of consequences.
Bradley Coatings is a commercial painting company that works on tight deadlines and depends on employee attendance to meet its obligations, he said.
The company owner is a longtime supporter of immigrant causes and makes mission trips to Central America, Peal said. The company previously had donated materials and labor to one of the employees who was terminated Thursday after that worker lost his home to a fire.
Peal says this was a business decision and had nothing to do with the nature of the protests.