Dec. 3, 2016
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Janette Perez
Janette Perez is one of four employees who allege mistreatment.
Elizabeth Miller

Complaints Over Intimidation Surface

Four ‘New Mexican’ employees say the paper pushed back when they tried to create a union

October 3, 2016, 12:00 am

A cluster of protesters gathered outside the front door of The Santa Fe New Mexican on Monday, Oct. 3, to publicly air their concerns with what they say is discrimination, intimidation, harassment and union-busting at the newspaper. The group gathered largely in support of Janette Perez, who says she was recently fired from the newspaper’s production department after voicing complaints when she felt she’d become the target of inappropriate comments from another supervisor.

Perez alleges that supervisor mentioned hiring another woman he assumed was a lesbian, and that he was going to place her on Perez’ shifts because “she would fit in well and they could check out girls together,” she tells SFR, with her partner, Anais Gonzalez, serving as translator.

Additional comments were made in the break room that, on the whole, left her feeling humiliated, undermined and subject to a hostile environment, she says. When she took her concerns to the production director, Tim Cramer, Perez says he told her “the stories didn’t match” and the complaint was dismissed. Cramer was not immediately available to respond.

"The New Mexican denies the claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation," says Susan Cahoon, human resources manager for The New Mexican. "The claims are being addressed by the appropriate administrative agencies and we cannot comment further on pending claims."

Perez says she then went to the paper’s human resources department, where she was met with the response, “These things happen.” Twice, she says, she was asked to sign a document stating that she would not sue the newspaper, and she twice declined. 

Supervisors then moved her from the evening shift, which starts at 3:15 pm, to the day shift, which begins at 7:15 am, for the first time in the four years she worked with the company. 

“That was the shift that the director had, so from then on, she felt like they were doing it just to watch her,” Gonzalez tells SFR

Perez says the team she oversaw was also reduced at the same time her workload increased. She was eventually fired—the day after sending a letter to publisher Tom Cross and owner Robin Martin about a committee she formed with three other workers in the company’s production division to seek redress for their complaints and concerns. A call to Cross’s office from SFR went unreturned. 

The protest was organized with in collaboration with Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Equality New Mexico. Employees say that their participation in that committee, which they characterize as a union, and their complaints about working conditions led to actions from the company intended to intimidate and harass them. 

Perez has since filed a verbal complaint with the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission. Her coworker Ismael Reyes has filed a complaint about his treatment at the newspaper with the National Labor Relations Board, in addition to calling the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission. In his complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, Reyes says he was prohibited from translating or interpreting communications for other employees because he had joined the complaint about employee working conditions and engaged with other activities on behalf of the committee Perez organized. His complaint also states that in the last six months, new policies prohibited employees from being on the premises unless they were clocked in or scheduled to work, and then only within 10 minutes on either side of their shift, as well as from listening to music at work. Employees’ schedules were also changed. The complaint contends that The New Mexican’s managers and supervisors have created an atmosphere in which participants in the union felt they were being monitored and threatened with reprisals. 

Perez wants her job back, the intimidation to stop and to see all supervisors trained in how to respond to complaints of this nature.

 

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