Unjustly Fired Bakery Workers Announce First Victory, Continued Demand for Full Payment Under Law

For Immediate Release

Arise Chicago
Contact: 

Adam Kader, Arise Chicago Workers Center Director - 773.937.1826

Karen Leyva, Rolf’s employee of six years – 773.297.1928

Unjustly Fired Bakery Workers Announce First Victory, Continued Demand for Full Payment Under Law

Say payment of “fraction” of what they are owed is “a good start, but it’s just a start.”

CHICAGO - After protesting the unjust closure of their factory, where workers were illegally denied 60 days notice or severance pay, 136 former Rolf’s Patisserie workers have won their first victory in a larger campaign: commitment to payment of a small amount of what their former employer owes them under federal law, as part of their continuing campaign for the full amount of what is legally and morally owed them.

“It’s a small fraction of what they legally owe us,” says Deyanira Alvarez, a former customer service representative of Rolf’s. “It’s a good start, but it’s just a start.”

After Rolf’s Patisserie was abruptly closed without warning in December, workers received their final paychecks, only to discover they bounced--their wages had been stolen. The workers organized together to demand full compensation owed to them under law. That organizing paid off this week when workers began to receive their final paychecks, fees for bounced checks, and accrued vacation pay.

If we hadn’t come together, we wouldn’t have these checks,” said Angel Hernandez, a packing worker at Rolf’s for more than a decade. “We had to get together to win.”

Workers insist that receiving their final paychecks is only the beginning, as “they have been victims of multiple injustices,” says Adam Kader, director of Arise Chicago Workers Center. Though they’ve received their final paychecks, Rolf’s workers say they will continue demanding the 60 days compensation owed to them under the WARN Act.

“We’re only asking for what we’re owed, but look at what we have to go through,” says Karen Leyva, a Rolf’s employee of six years. “No one should have to fight this hard just to make their boss follow the law.”

The poor economy is not an excuse for companies to break federal laws,” Kader says.

Rolf’s workers were told on Dec. 10th that their plant would be briefly closed for cleaning on the 11th; shockingly, they found out on the 11th that the plant was closed and they were all fired through a three-sentence posting on the company’s web site.  After employees worked with Arise Chicago to organize a demonstration in front of their shuttered factory, owner Lloyd Culbertson—a former investment banker—agreed to pay their final checks and accrued vacation pay. He has not, however, offered to pay workers severance–more than 80 percent of what he owes workers under law.

WHAT:    Press conference with unjustly fired Rolf’s Patisserie workers

WHERE: 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, 1st Fl. Edgewater Presbyterian Church

WHEN:    January 19, 2012, 11 A.M.

WHO:      Illegally fired bakery workers demanding payment owed them under law

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Arise Chicago organizes the religious community to bring about just resolutions to workplace injustice.

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