A group of valets who used to park cars at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania just got their jobs back after they said they were fired for trying to start a union, according to 32BJ SEIU.
In late June, six valets, most of whom are immigrants from Africa, were fired by Canadian parking giant Impark, short for Imperial Parking, which ran the HUP garage. One valet had worked for Impark for nine years, another for 15.
Impark did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Last month, in a statement to the Inquirer and Daily News, Impark's chief commercial officer, Leonard Carder, said that allegations that the company fired employees for union activity are "unfounded."
Although it's illegal to fire workers for attempting to organize, it's a common tactic because it's hard to prove the reason for a worker's dismissal. Either workers can file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which could take months to resolve, or a union can try to settle the matter directly with the company on the workers' behalf. In this case, union 32BJ did both and was able to get the workers their jobs back without the National Labor Relations Board. 32BJ is now in talks with Impark about a "fair process" to start a union.
News of the workers' reinstatement comes two weeks after the Inquirer and Daily News first reported on the valets losing their jobs. Now, five of the six valets have been given their jobs back, with back pay, said 32BJ spokesperson Julie Blust. One decided to go back to school instead of returning to the valet job.
Reached by phone Tuesday, parking attendant Surafel Fisiha, who immigrated from Ethiopia more than 10 years ago, said he returned to work Monday and still planned on fighting for a union for himself and his coworkers.