Published on political affairs pa, March 21, 2009.
Shirley Samayoa worked at the Colibri Group for 27 years, making jewelry and cigarette lighters. Yesterday, as her former employer auctioned off the company’s assets, she and twelve of her coworkers and allies sat down to say “enough is enough.”
“I was one of the many Colibri workers protesting at the Colibri factory on the 19th. Workers have rights and sometimes they have to say enough is enough! We are THE COLIBRI WORKERS FOR RIGHTS AND JUSTICE and we will continue to fight for our rights and the rights of other workers in the same situation.”
As bidders drove into the company parking lot, about 200 pickets greeted them with chants of “We’ll go away when we get our pay,” and “Rise Together! Stay Together!” In four separate waves workers sat down in the road blocking access to the cars before they were handcuffed and taken away in police vans.
In mid-January, Colibri’s primary investor, NY-based Founders Equity assigned Colibri into State Receivership, leaving 280 Rhode Island workers unemployed without notice. Since then, Colibri Workers for Rights and Justice has been demanding 60 days pay and 60 days benefits, what would have been due them had Colibri Group followed the federal WARN Act. They are also asking for severance based on years worked. “I have a value. I was their worker. Fouders Equity has to do the right thing!” said Samayoa …
… After the closing, the workers, who did not have union, organized with the help of local workers rights center Fuerza Laboral and also with the help of Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, the community labor coalition. Earlier this month, the Providence City Council and the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed resolutions supporting the efforts of the workers to get the pay and benefits they are entitled to.
The Fight Continues: Colibri Workers will continue to demand justice from Founders Equity and they will the fight beyond their own campaign.
Shirley Samayoa says, “We represent the average worker that has made this country strong. We have met and talked to many people across the state that are supporting us with our fight. Many workers have come forward and say that they have recently been laid off by their companies. The companies have told them that they will get their compensation and medical continued – they will not be treated like the Colibri workers. If this is the only result of our fight – our sit down – I will feel that I have won. People are watching us and listening to us. We have a name. We are THE COLIBRI WORKERS FOR RIGHTS AND JUSTICE and we will continue to fight for our rights and the rights of other workers in the same situation.”
Kelley Fusaro, a Colibri worker, told a local TV reporter that this isn?t the end of the protest, “Colibri doesn’t treat us right. Its going to teach companies going forward they can’t pull this on their workers” You can take action on this alert either via email (please see directions below) or via the web. (full text).