DETROIT (AP) — More than 20 Hispanic immigrant workers at an industrial plant in southeast Michigan say they were fired after taking part in the Day Without Immigrants protests in February.
The workers have filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board saying they were unjustly fired by EZ Industrial Solutions in Chesterfield Township for taking part in a political protest, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The charge filed by attorney Tony Paris said employees were threatened the day before the protests with a one-week suspension, but were instead fired. Paris said some of the workers marched in rallies that day in Detroit, while others skipped work in protest.
The charge also said that a company supervisor threatened to report the fired workers to immigration authorities.
"A worker said: A supervisor came to my house asking, 'How are you affording an attorney? Don't you know the company is going to send ICE, have ICE be involved?'" Paris said, referring to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
On its website, EZ Industrial Solutions says it "specializes in secondary operations for the automotive fastener and stamping industry. Our services include fastener vision sorting/hand sorting, fastener head painting, assemblies, and packaging/kitting."
The workers at EZ Industrial Solutions earned just above minimum wage, about $9 to $12 an hour, assorting screws and other small items, working an informal routine that allowed for absences, Paris said. He said the NLRB investigators interviewed the workers in a church, where they felt comfortable speaking out. Some may be undocumented immigrants.
EZ operations manager Jordan Yoder said the company stands by its decision.
"The law is quite clear that employees can't just not show up to work when they're expected, and also that they are not free to participate in political, non-work-related protests during their work day without consequences," Yoder said. "We therefore deny any wrongdoing and are confident that the charge will be dismissed."
Paris said the workers at EZ didn't have a regular schedule, so not showing up was never grounds to be fired. He also said the company had only warned of a suspension, not a firing.
The charge has been sent to the labor board's Washington, D.C., office for further review.