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“Don’t speak Creole Here!” Haitian Discrimination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18, 2012


CONTACT: Dan Bass, SEIU Local 615, 301-613-6973


Airport Workers Allege Unlawful Discrimination

BOSTON, MA— Airport workers employed by Flight Services & Systems (FSS), a contractor that provides cabin cleaning, wheelchair assistance, and security services at Logan Airport, filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) alleging that two of them were fired and another suspended for speaking Creole while on the job.  Workers and community leaders attended the monthly Massport meeting today to raise concerns about ongoing discriminatory practices.

 

Community groups worry that incidents like these may represent a larger climate of discrimination and injustice at the airport. Bonny Saintelot, a member of the Haitian American Forum, expressed condemnation of FSS’s actions: “What happened at the airport struck me a great deal—discrimination is supposed to have ended a long time ago, but these incidents show that it is still alive at Logan Airport.  I urge Massport to make every effort to stop this outrage.” Nesly Metayer, coordinator of the Haitian American Task Force, echoed a similar sentiment, declaring “it is unacceptable to treat workers unfairly like this in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Massport must act swiftly to stop discriminatory practices at the airport.”

 

“While FSS has been quick to use me as a translator if there is a passenger in need, they’ve turned the tables by suspending me for speaking Haitian to my co-workers,” recounts Charles Pierre. “By filing a complaint and speaking out, I’m standing up for all workers who speak languages beyond English showing that discrimination at work is not to be tolerated.”

 

These occurrences are especially disturbing in light of recent allegations of discrimination and racial profiling by Transportation Security Administration agents at Logan Airport.  In August, the New York Times reported that 32 TSA agents have come forward alleging that “the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.”

BACKGROUND:

Djovanna Dorce was fired on September 27th after being overheard speaking Creole outside of her manager’s office. Her manager stated that he doesn’t like Haitians. Charles Pierre claims that on the very same day he received a three-day suspension for “insubordination” after his manager saw him talking to a co-worker in Creole. Both Djovanna and Charles say that they were unaware of the company’s “English only” policy at the airport, since it is common for other employees to speak to each other in their native languages without facing discipline.

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SEIU Local 615 is an organization of 18,000 property services workers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. United by a belief in the dignity of all workers, our union is dedicated to improving the lives of working families and creating a more just and humane society.

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