Editor’s Note: This story is developing…
Brooklyn, NY – Workers at a framing warehouse in Sunset Park say they were fired on Friday morning after they pleaded with their bosses for weeks to provide them with cleaner bathrooms and fundamental protections against the spread of coronavirus.
“We are putting our families at risk and they basically don’t care,” four year warehouse employee Digna Rivera told LaborPress.
More than 30 employees immediately took to the streets in protest outside the Art To Frames warehouse located at 770 5th Avenue on Friday, after being told they are out of work.
At one point, witnesses say a man identified as Art To Frames owner Schneur Minsky, attempted to take the protesters’ signs. Police were later called to the scene.
Anxiety at the Art To Frames warehouse, where employees routinely work in cramped quarters less than two feet apart from each other, has been growing steadily over the last two weeks as fears about the COVID-19 pandemic galloped throughout New York State and the rest of the country.
As of this writing, there have been more than 7,100 recorded cases of coronavirus throughout New York State and 35 fatalities.
Workers say they repeatedly asked management for masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and the like — but where told “there was no more.”
“We can’t be working under these conditions,” Rivera says. “You’re playing with our family’s health.”
Frustrated workers have already signed 32 union cards with the NYC District Council of Carpenters and expect to collect even more.
Rivera recently spent two days at home battling a fever. Although she ultimately tested negative for coronavirus, anxiety within the Art To Frames warehouse remains high with at least one other worker reportedly out sick.
When employees confronted managers about their growing health concerns, Rivera says they were told, “Those that feel safe can stay — the rest can go home.”
Assembly Member Félix W. Ortiz [D-51st District] reached out to Minsky on Thursday evening in an effort to advocate for warehouse workers and their ongoing health concerns.
“I told him we are in very difficult times [and] that he should not take these kinds of actions,” the assembly member told LaborPress late Friday.
Outraged workers charge management, in a bid to get rid of them, has “weaponized” an earlier temporary ban on certain businesses and large gatherings of 50 people or more.
Jobs at the Art To Frame warehouse are divided between day and evening crews and number about 80 in all, according to Rivera.
“Why only us? [They’re] using that law against us because we fought for our rights,” Rivera says.
Unfair labor practice charges at the National Labor Relations Board are forthcoming.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has since tightened restrictions even further, on Friday, issuing a “pause” on business and ordering all “non-essential employees” to stay home as the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold.
LaborPress’ reached out to Art To Frames for a comment on Friday, but was unsuccessful.