TRIBECA — Longtime art supply store Pearl Paint has fired 39 of its workers illegally, amid rumors that the store is set to shut down, the employees' union says.
The union, Workers United Local 169, filed charges against Pearl Paint with the National Labor Relations Board on April 11, claiming the business broke its union contract by letting the workers go without enough notice, and with no communication or bargaining with the union. The union also filed a grievance notice with the company.
“What Pearl Paint did was simply outrageous and the height of disrespect,” said Julie Kelly, the manager of the New York/New Jersey Regional Joint Board of Workers United and a representative for Local 169. “These people have worked for Pearl Paint for 16 years and they just disregard them.”
Pearl Paint sent the employees letters on April 7, telling them that their employment would be terminated just 10 days later, according to the document shared with DNAinfo New York.
The letters, which are just three sentences, read:
“Due to circumstances beyond our control and with great sorrow it is necessary to notify you of your termination of employment. Please take notice that your employment with Pearl Paint will terminate as of the close of business on April 17, 2014. Pearl Paint and all its management appreciate you[sic] tenure and loyalty and wish you the best in your future endeavors.”
Kelly said the union was never notified by Pearl Paint about the termination letters, and only found out when its distraught members called in. Kelly said that according to their contract, the workers are owed 60 days notice and the company is supposed to give a reason for laying the union employees off. The company is also supposed to give workers a layoff package as well, which can include extended healthcare or help with job placement, Kelly said.
"We all just can't believe it," said one laid-off union worker who asked that his name not be used. "I've worked here for 10 years and this is how they treat you? You know how I really feel? This is f----- up."
Since the letters were sent out, the union has repeatedly reached out to Pearl Paint, Kelly said, but it has not gotten any response from the company.
DNAinfo's calls to Pearl Paint's corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. were not returned.
“We’re heard nothing, absolutely nothing, just radio silence,” Kelly said. “The only information we have is the three sentences in that letter. It’s unbelievable.”
Pearl Paint has not confirmed rumors of its impending closure, first reported by TriBeCa Citizen. Real estate agent Massey Knakal recently posted a listing for the five-story, 308 Canal St., building, saying the space "can be delivered vacant."
The store first opened in 1933 and is now a national chain.