New York, NY – Dozens of JFK Airport workers contracted by Eulen America rallied on the steps of City Hall this week, in support of a pregnant co-worker who was injured after being tasked with a strenuous job she was ill equipped to handle and could have threatened the life of her unborn child.
Hacheler Cyrille, a wheelchair attendant and an expectant mother with a 6-year-old boy at home, requested a less strenuous position at Eulen America, an airport contracting firm, so that she could have less stress during the remainder of her pregnancy. According to supporters, she was, instead, designated to work at a conveyor belt as a bag runner lifting heavy luggage.
“It was my first time working there,” Cyrille said on Tuesday. “The luggage was really heavy and I did not know how to handle it. They didn’t tell me anything about what I should do. But I had to work.”
On May 8, the then 17-week expectant mom from Brooklyn ended up falling onto the conveyor belt and being carried away by it. Cyrille had a doctor’s note approving her need for a chair, which Eulen America allegedly rejected.
“Can you stop the belt? Please help me!” Cyrille remembers screaming as she was tossed from one conveyor belt to another.
32BJ SEIU is actively helping Eulen America workers organize, and maintains that Cyrille’s case is just example of the many workplace violations employees are expected to endure.
Cyrille was reportedly taken to Jamaica Hospital after falling onto the conveyor belt and was treated for contusions and bruises all over her body.
Cyrille still does not know what had stopped the conveyer belt from further injuring her, but she said the incident shook her up and made her fear for her unborn child.
“I’m expecting my baby in a couple weeks so, I’m praying and I don’t want to get too emotional with this tragedy,” she said on Tuesday. “I want to have a safe delivery; carrying a child is good, but it is a lot of work.”
Eulen America allegedly did not file a report with the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Cyrille has not received any workers’ compensation as a result.
Cyrille remains unsure when, or even if, she will be allowed to return to Eulen America. She has been forced to dip into her 6-year-old’s college fund just to put food on the table, and is exploring litigation proceedings against the company.
“She was an employee of Eulen for three years,” said Shirley Aldebol, vice president of 32BJ.
Said Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal [D-6th District], chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, “Women get pregnant, I guess that is new to Eulen.
The council member added, “When someone gets pregnant and is not welcomed back to work, that’s [not] the expectation. Well, we will stand with you today, and we will stand with 32BJ to get that message across. We will stand with you every day.”