More Turmoil at Workplace Project: Day Laborer Group Dismisses Board

The dramatics at the Workplace Project continued last week when the organization, which advocates for day laborers on Long Island, unexpectedly deposed its elected board of directors and replaced them with an interim board, La Tribuna Hispana reports.

The controversy arose from efforts by Executive Director Omar Ángel Pérez to dismiss Carlos Canales, one of the two-decade-old center’s best-known staffers — a move some called arbitrary, La Tribuna Hispana has previously reported.

The controversy unearthed other dissatisfactions. Staffers in satellite offices said the group’s influence has waned, and that they feel little support from the group’s central administration. One board member complained that the group’s finances were opaque, and said Pérez has not provided financial paperwork. And some questioned how grants of $60,000 and $17,000 from Nassau and Suffolk Counties’ coffers had been spent.

Board members told the Spanish-language newspaper that their dismissal, at a monthly meeting on April 30, was illegal, and that they were ambushed when more than 30 members of the organization showed up — vastly more than the 10 or so members who usually attend.

“Not even when we were giving away turkeys last Thanksgiving did so many come as at this meeting,” one of the ex-board members told La Tribuna Hispana.

A group shot of Workplace Project members in happier days (Photo via La Tribuna Hispana)

The voting process appeared “so irregular that the supposed membership was never checked; nor was the process used in previous elections followed, with voters simply raising their hands,” said Irma Solís, who directed the project’s committee in Farmingdale, Suffolk County. “And there wasn’t even a formal count of the vote.”

Board members who were present told the newspaper that the meeting’s moderator only allowed time for speakers attacking Canales, whose lawsuit against Pérez charging discrimination was on the meeting’s agenda for discussion.

Thus, what was supposed to be an ordinary membership meeting became a “coup d’etat,” said Solís. Members made a motion to depose five of the board’s 11 members (nine full members and two supplementary) because of the board’s supposed inability to manage the internal scandal, which had become public knowledge.

Even with not all the board members present, one board member declared that “if one goes, we all go,” after which, by a vote of the “membership” in attendance, the meeting proceeded to depose the entire board.  Even the board chair didn’t express opposition, and he himself voted that he and the rest of the board be thrown out, according to those present.

A previous story on The Workplace Project from La Tribuna Hispana explained the group’s setup:

The organizational structure of the Workplace Project makes the general assembly, consisting of the members, the highest authority. They in turn elect a board of directors every two years. The executive director is hired by the board, and he in turn supervises the work of the staff and has the power to hire and fire employees as necessary.

One of the former board members, Solís, accused the executive director, Pérez, of orchestrating the board’s dismissal. Pérez declined comment to La Tribuna Hispana.

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