The following first appeared on Firedoglake, which can be found here
Darletta Scruggs, a single mother in Chicago who worked for Brink’s, was fired a week after participating in the Fight for 15 protests on April 15.
On April 21, Scruggs felt something was wrong when her company phone was turned off. She then went to work only to be told by a security guard that she would not be allowed to enter the building where she worked.
The proper procedure for termination is supposed to include a letter in the mail informing the worker that he or she is on suspension.
“I received none of that and, apparently, that notice was placed on April 21. That is not proper procedure,” Scruggs told Firedoglake.
Brink’s is a firm providing “security-related services” for thousands of businesses from banks to fast-food businesses. Such services “include include money processing, long-distance transport of valuables, vaulting and other value-added solutions.” The company did not respond to an email request for a comment on Scruggs’ termination.
Scruggs joined Brink’s in August 2014 as a “route coordinator or route logistic manager.” Essentially, she described it as an office job where tasks included customer service, scheduling or termination, albeit with limited powers.
The position was salary-paid and Scruggs was considered management by the company.
Scruggs joined drivers for routes in spite of not being trained to do so. She began to understand the frustration other workers felt when doing routes.
“It made me sympathize a little more with what the drivers and messengers would complaining about,” Scruggs said.
Since August 2014, Scruggs told Firedoglake the company began to cut benefits to workers. In one instance, vacation time was no longer based on seniority and, as a result, employees had to “earn it as they worked.”
“We started to see morale in the workplace fall and definitely an increase of anger and discontent. Of course, upper management was not very sympathetic or concerned about the issue they were bringing up,” Scruggs said.
Scruggs said her bosses would initially say such removal of benefits came from corporate. Furthermore, they cited the economy as a reason why changes were implemented.
With morale deteriorating and benefits cut, Scruggs inquired with other workers about forming a union. She was told by a few workers a union was created a few years ago only to dissolve shortly after.
Yet, Scruggs pressed on and worked with other workers to create a union. She became aware of a nationwide April 15 walkout organized by SEIU’s “Fight for 15” campaign and told other Brink’s employees about the planned action. Workers, she noted, were interested in joining and learning more.
Management warned Brink’s employees, including Scruggs, before April 15 about unionization efforts.
“My manager and my manager’s manager told me I was ‘organizing a walkout,'” Scruggs said.
Still, Scruggs felt action needed to be taken, especially as she played a bigger role in the Fight for 15 movement.
“It became more difficult to separate [organizing] from my job. My job was acting in the same manner a lot of same corporations I was speaking and organizing against,” Scruggs said.
On April 15, Scruggs marched with other Brink’s workers.
“On the day of the walkout, I was confronted with my involvement as well. They definitely knew that I was involved in some degree. It was matter of time for them to figure out or get a loophole to get me terminated,” Scruggs said.
After participating, Scruggs returned to work and, one day, was on a route when the truck she was in malfunctioned. Specifically, a door could not open and she, along with her co-worker, used an alternative door to leave the truck.
Once she returned, her manager asked Scruggs whether she would go outside again. Scruggs said she had to pick up her child to which her manager asked whether Scruggs was “refusing to work.”
“That’s like asking someone, ‘Well are you quitting?'” Scruggs said.
Eventually, Scruggs was terminated from the company soon after. She still is in contact with her colleagues at work. In fact, since her firing, nine other employees were also terminated. One employee involved in the unionization effort was terminated.
Moreover, Scruggs said, after her firing, there were anti-union videos shown, leaflets displayed about the dangers of a union, intimidation tactics used and even corporate figures from Brink’s heading to the workplace.
Currently, Scruggs is raising money on GoFundMe to support herself and help the union drive. A petition was also made to re-instate Scruggs. As of the time of this post, more than 800 people signed the petition.
“I’m not too sure how likely it is, but I would like to have my job back,” Scruggs said.
In addition, Scruggs filed suit with the National Labor Review Board about her termination. She said her position at Brink’s was difficult to classify. While she was considered management, she performed the duties of an employee. Thus, she feels there is a case to be made over a wrongful termination.
The SEIU, which stands for Service Employees International Union, was founded in 1921 and represents more than two million workers across the U.S.
Scruggs believes the demands of the “Fight for 15” campaign—a union and $15 per hour—are still vital for Brink’s employees. Indeed, she highlighted how Brink’s revenues last year, which totaled $3.9 billion, justified more benefits and pay for workers.
“For me it is a way to show employees that you can fight back and fight for people,” Scruggs said.
Additionally, Scruggs criticized the approach of not only “Fight for 15” organizers in Chicago but the SEIU. She said both were “counter-organizing.”
“Workers are not a part of the organizing process. The leadership is taking control of every move,” Scruggs said.
For Scruggs, she felt it is important to “point out all of these contradictions” with current labor efforts by SEIU and “Fight for 15” organizers. Still, she feels it is important to help workers organize not only into a union, but receive benefits they deserve.
“I think it’s important not to allow titles to divide the working class and see the humanity in a person who is taking a chance and risking their job,” Scruggs said.
The Chicago section of the SEIU did not reply to an email request for comment on Scruggs’ termination.
Image is a Creative Commons-licensed photo from Chris Beckett on Flickr.