A painting company in Nolensville is still fielding criticism after firing 18 Latino employees who skipped work last month as part of a nationwide boycott — the Day Without Immigrants.
On social media and review websites, a deluge of negativity has targeted Bradley Coatings Inc. — and even spilled over onto an unrelated Pennsylvania business with a similar name.
And on Wednesday, a protest came to the front door.
A dozen protesters — mostly white union members from Nashville, and two Latinos with Workers Dignity — arrived to find the company’s tinted glass front door locked.
So they taped their demands to it and chanted while knocking and peering inside.
“What do we want!?” called out Doug Claypool, with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
“Justice!” came the callback.
The group’s demands include a call for reinstatement of the employees and back pay. Claypool and the group tried unsuccessfully to deliver that request directly to the company. And within 10 minutes, Nolensville police arrived to move the demonstration off the property. It continued from the curb.
The company hasn’t wavered. An attorney stood by a statement from two weeks ago, saying that the firings weren’t over free speech, and that Bradley has long employed immigrants. The attorney said employees were warned a day in advance that they could not skip out on time-sensitive work.
Demonstrators like construction worker Mark Poole, 41, said the firing is an example of what’s at stake lately for workers’ rights and for immigrants. And he said he supported the boycott when it happened.
“Any time people with like-minds can stand together and stand for something that they believe in, to show either the government or the community of racism and bigotry that it’s wrong … then we’re doing what we’re supposed to do as American people,” he said.
The protesters said some of the dismissed employees have found work elsewhere. And they’re not especially hopeful to get the others reinstated.
“I’ve seen companies do that before,” Claypool said. “I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but I don’t think the chances are really good that that will happen.”
The company said it has backfilled most of the jobs.
In addition to the original 18 firings, Bradley Coatings lost another seven employees. The company says they resigned. Demonstrators characterize that conflict as additional firings.