The owner of a Long Island deli chain denied a media report that he fired more than two dozen workers from its Greenvale location after they didn’t show up to work Thursday to protest immigration issues.
Telemundo reported Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant & Caterers fired 25 employees who boycotted work for the “Day Without Immigrants,” a protest against what they called President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies. Other media referenced the Spanish-language television network’s report.
That did not happen, according to deli owner Ronnie Dragoon and a statement published on the company website and Facebook page.
“I didn’t fire anyone over the protest,” Dragoon said.
The company, which also has delis in Carle Place, Woodbury and Bayside, said in its statement the eatery had posted a notice for workers on Feb. 15 “expressing support for their human rights and requesting that they fill their shift as scheduled” the following day.
Dragoon said 21 workers were absent Thursday, with 19 apparently taking part in the protest. Dragoon said he fired one worker after that employee threatened a manager and other workers who didn’t back the protest. “My obligation as an employer is to provide a safe environment,” he said.
He said he also let go two temporary workers who missed work that day.
The workers, who appeared briefly in the Telemundo report, could not be reached for comment Monday, and local immigrant and labor advocates said they had not been in touch with them.
A Nassau police spokesman confirmed a call from the Greenvale deli on Friday around 10:40 a.m. for a disturbance involving one employee, upset that he had been fired. No arrests were made.
The protest stemmed from a social media campaign that led to absences and some business closings across the country, though the effort was not backed by local immigrant-advocacy groups.
Anita Halasz, executive director of immigrant- and labor-advocacy group Long Island Jobs With Justice, said her organization was not aware of the Greenvale case. She had heard from one local pizza shop employee claiming he was fired over the immigrants’ protest.
“When workers are in deli or pizza places they aren’t always protected by a union contract,” Halasz said. “We want workers, whether they are undocumented or not, to be protected by a union, which gives them a right to engage in these political activities, because they would have paid days off.”
At the Greenvale deli, Dragoon said 8 of the 19 employees who skipped work had returned and he had taken them back.
However, Dragoon says he’s been slammed with hundreds of messages and online postings Monday from people upset about the reported dismissals.
“It’s a sad day for me because I am a progressive and it’s hurtful ... They had a right to protest,” Dragoon said.
Galaad Bonilla, 37, a Salvadoran immigrant employed as a waiter at Ben’s in Greenvale, did not miss work. He said some workers had returned and were taken back, but others had lingered outside “looking sad” the day after the protest because they thought they had been fired.
Dragoon said he would welcome back those who’ve not yet returned.
Bonilla said in Spanish he had told co-workers that “there are many ways in which you can express your discontent, but not like this, because the person affected is going to be our boss, who gives us work, and we also need that work to put food on the table.”