Long Island restaurant fired back on the allegation of immigrant discrimination

Front door of Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant & Caterers. ©Zhang 2017

By Rongyi Zhang and Yingzi Dong

Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant & Caterers denied the allegation of having fired 25 immigrant employees after they joined the “Day Without Immigrants” protest.

According to Telemundo, a Spanish news website, twenty-five of Ben’s Kosher’s employees were fired on Feb 16th, after they attended the “Day Without Immigrants” march. The owner of restaurant, Ronnie Dragoon, published a statement on its official site claiming that hadn’t fired 25 people, and he had sent letters to those who thought they had been fired urging them come back. 

“Actually it’s not 25, it is 21 people who left on Friday after the protest,” Luis Flores, the general manager of Greenvale branch, said. “We did fire one person, and two temporary employees decided to leave by themselves, I don’t know if they have discussed that.”

Thousands of immigrant workers from all over America attended a protest named “Day Without Immigrants” on Feb. 16th in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda. Several restaurants including Ben’s Kosher were reported for firing employees over immigrant issue. Negative comments took over the review part of the restaurant’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Upon hearing that you fired the striking immigrant workers, I will no longer patronize any of your restaurants. I will also be sharing this widely across social media. Shame on you, because our Jewish ancestors were all refugees and immigrants,” read a comment published on Ben’s Koshers’ Facebook from Feb. 20th.  

“Nine out of eighteen have come back to work,” Ronnie Dragoon said. “I only fired one person because he threatened two employees with bodily harm (broken legs) and a general manager, Mr. Luis Flores, with a death threat.”

Flores confirmed Ronnie Dragoon’s words. “We let go one person who threatened employees […], he said he was going to hurt them, he even threatened to hurt me,” Flores said.

This person, according to employees who have come back to work, not only threatened them on Thursday, when the protest was ongoing, but he also spread the message to his colleagues that they were all fired on Friday when they returned to the restaurant.

“I just heard everybody got fired so I left with them.” Wilson Mejia, an immigrant worker from Honduras, said. The former employee went out and told his colleagues that they were all fired after knowing the restaurant no longer needed him. Flores said. The contact information of this person was not provided by the manager due to privacy concerns.

“We took that day off and then we came back on Friday,” Orlando Maldonado, one of the 9 employees who has returned, said. Some people didn’t want to come back to work and they told us we were fired.” 

There is currently no official response from the workers’ union concerning with what happened at Ben’s. But it is illegal for employers to fire workers who don’t show up for work.

“What happened with those workers is not protected by Union contract, which generally means that employers can fire them and let them go without just cause,” executive director from Long Island Jobs with Justice Anita Halasz said. “So not showing up for a day of work can be considered as the cause to fire them.”

Halasz also said that they are trying to reach out to the workers involved in the incident to conduct their investigation too, but she could not comment more at the time.


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