Former Maritime Aquarium workers make splash with council

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Nelson Acevedo stands with other former Maritime Aquarium workers Tuesday at the Norwalk Common Council meeting. Acevedo said he had worked at the aquarium for four to five years.

Updated, 6:33 p.m., statement from Jennifer Herring

NORWALK, Conn. – A vote on a new lease for the Maritime Aquarium was postponed Tuesday night to give Common Council members time to look into claims that nine people had been laid off from their jobs cleaning the aquarium because they are union members.

“They hired new people,” Erika Aguilera said to the council. “We applied but they didn’t take anybody. The reason is because we are union members.”

Carmen Sargent of the Service Employees International Union also talked to the council.

“Good paying jobs are some things (that are) very important for a city,” she said. “These workers have lost their jobs, have lost their income, have lost their health insurance. These people are going to become a burden to the city of Norwalk.”

The vote on the lease was tabled until the next council meeting.

Mayor Harry Rilling said he wanted to meet with the laid-off workers.

“Sorry for your job loss, I really am. I know it’s very difficult,” he said to the group during a recess. “We’ll sit in my office. I know David Watts came to me and was very interested and very upset with what happened. We’ll bring David in and have a nice meeting with David and Donna King, my city clerk.”

Aguilera said she is from Honduras and had worked at the Aquarium for 14 years. They were all laid off Dec. 31 with no warning, she said.

“Because we are union we are good paid, we have benefits and they hired in new people,” she said. The jobs are no longer full time. “They don’t pay benefits. That is the reason, they want to save money.”

Aquarium press contact Dave Sigworth released the following statement, quoting President Jennifer Herring:

“Because of current dynamic, changing conditions, the Aquarium has decided to move the maintenance/cleaning of the facility ‘in-house,’ as opposed to using an outside vendor.

“The Maritime Aquarium seeks to operate efficiently and economically, in part by using outside vendors as infrequently as possible. For example, the Aquarium prefers to create and design marketing campaigns ‘in-house,’ where we previously relied upon outside ad agencies. And, where possible, we design and build our exhibits in-house.”


12 responses to “Former Maritime Aquarium workers make splash with council”

  1. anonymous

    Nancy on Norwalk what is the hourly rate for these workers?

    Obamacare is there for people, all these folks can get insurance coverage on their own now.

  2. I don’t understand the problem – the Maritime Aquarium “wants to save money” and cut corners where they were able. Someone should say to these workers that this is the way a business is run. The MA does not owe you a job.
    Just because you are in a union (or employed for 10 + years) does NOT guarantee you a job for life… I know, I know, it goes against the union M.O.
    Just ask the thousands of PRIVATE employees who were shown the back door in 2008 – 2009.
    The city of Norwalk could stand to learn a lesson from the MA.

  3. Casey Smith

    Personally, I’d be insulted if Carmen Sargent of the Service Employees International Union made the following statement about me following a job lay off,
    “These people are going to become a burden to the city of Norwalk.”
    I thought that the unemployment was handled by the State, not the City.
    Like Anonymous, I thought the whole idea of Obamacare was so that the uninsured could be insured.
    Isn’t it up to the Service Employees International Union to negotiate with the Maritime Center who is a private employer, rather than the City? So, is the City going to deny the lease for the Center or close it down unless the Center hires back the nine employees?

  4. the donut hole

    Since the Maritime lives rent free, they are essentially asking the city to pick up the cost.
    Hopefully the displaced workers figure out that the only thing their union does for them is collect dues.

  5. EveT

    Some day America’s non-union workers will realize that the reason we have labor laws is because of the hard work done by unions in past decades. Without unions we would be back in the “robber baron” days of child labor, 80-hour work weeks, no paid holidays, no OSHA, etc. If workers refuse to stick together and instead accuse union members of being lazy (and worse), that is where we are headed.

  6. Piberman

    Connecticut has the 2nd highest property taxes in America financing top paid public union salaries, not because superior service. Similarly Norwalk has both top property taxes and highest paid public union employees of any city in the state. Businesses and jobs are fleeing CT. Norwalk property vales remain stagnant. Anybody see a connection between high public union salaries and the exodus of jobs, firms and stagnant property values ?
    Not if your a Democrat politician beholden to public unions.

  7. Oldtimer

    Those people were not employees of the City, nor of the Aquarium. They were employees of an outside contractor whose contract had expired and was not renewed by the Aquarium because the price had gone too high. Aquarium management has decided it is cheaper to get the job done by in-house employees. Their is a lesson there for the City about outsourcing jobs, such as the cleaning service at City Hall and garbage collection. The savings offered by outside contractors don’t last. These businesses are run by people who are in business to make a profit.

  8. Bill Dunne

    There’s a hint in the last paragraph that the cause of their layoffs is the “Affordable Care Act,” which relieves employers of the mandate to insure their employees if the employees work 30 hours a week or less. Will somebody ask the Aquarium managers if that, indeed, was their motivation? Seems an obvious question.

  9. @Bill,
    Even if it was – this is the highway that Obama forced upon us – there is no going back (unless our politicians get a brain or we elect the entire group out). The Maritime does not owe them anything, especially since Obama promises them affordable healthcare…
    BTW – get used to this type of action happening. Why should private corp pay for health care when we have “such cost effective” (cough cough) plans available???
    These people are the first victims of Obama’s social healthcare program we are seeing.
    They won’t be the last…

  10. Casey Smith

    @EveT –
    My father was a union employee for decades and I never had a problem with unions. I had a prior run in with the SEIU back when they were picketing the Westport Nursing Home. I happened to take a side road to avoid a funeral at Assumption and when I got to the stop sign at the top of the hill by the nursing home, they surrounded my car, yelling about the “unfair layoffs”. Let’s just say I was not impressed with their actions.
    Lots of people have lost their jobs in the last few years. One classic case was the Hostess Twinkies mess. One union closed down the entire business. So everyone lost their jobs rather than making concessions.

  11. Bill

    The irony that Watts is trying to help people get jobs when this guy can’t even get employed himself…lol

  12. Anonymous

    What I would like to know is why the aquarium lets the union go, but keeps illegal aliens working for them? I guess for them it is better to be illegal than to be part of an union…

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