Campaign workers say employer stiffed them on paychecks

08/28/2014 11:37 AM

08/28/2014 1:18 PM

A couple that worked for a week promoting electoral candidates outside a voting precinct in Hialeah complained on Monday that the well-known political strategist Sasha Tirador had fired them and refused to pay them for the days worked.

Reinaldo Varela and Edenia Cruz Fernández said they were hired by Tirador to work two weeks outside the John F. Kennedy Library on West 49th Street. Varela promoted the re-election campaign of Judge Nuria Sáenz, while Fernández promoted the Miami-Dade School Board candidate Perla Tabares Hantman.

For wearing a T-shirt for each candidate and distributing fliers outside the precinct for eight hours each day, seven days a week, each person was to receive $500.

According to the couple, Tirador telephoned Varela on Sunday morning and asked him to take off his T-shirt and leave his post. Varela says the reason for firing him was that he sat down to rest.

“I sat under a tree to rest because it was too hot, but one doesn’t get fired for such a foolish reason,” said Varela, 62, in a press conference at Tropical Park on Monday.

But Tirador offered a different version of the incident.

The strategist said she had received three calls from people who reported that Varela had been sitting under a tree without working on several occasions. Tirador said that she asked Varela to leave and that she would send him to another campaign the following day. Initially, Tirador told him that she would pay him for the hours worked.

Yet when he was left without a T-shirt, Varela agreed to wear the campaign T-shirt for Duysevi Miyar, the opponent of Tabares Hantman, and in a matter of minutes he began to work for that candidate.

“I don’t pay people to sit down and rest, I pay them to work,” said Tirador, who confirmed that she had refused to give the $500 checks to Fernández and Varela. “Plus, you can imagine, if he starts working for the opposing campaign, of course I’m not going to pay them; let the other candidate pay them.”

When Tirador called Fernández and told her she would not get her check either because her husband had crossed to the opposing campaign, the 58-year-old woman said the impact was so strong that she fainted and ended up in the hospital.

“They had to call the rescue truck,” said Fernández. “We worked the entire week and she didn’t pay us one penny. I feel I have been robbed.”

The couple had worked for Tirador in previous years. Varela said he was waiting to cash the first week’s check to repair his car’s air conditioning. Fernández said that if Tirador does not pay her, the case will end up in court. Tirador said she will only pay if ordered by a judge.

“If a judge considers that it is all right to betray a campaign and violate the employment rules, then I will write them the check,” she said.

Tirador insisted that the written instructions she hands to each employee clearly establish the rules. She said that in these primary elections she has temporarily employed about 200 people, and that she is very strict with her workers.

“If someone is not doing their job, I have to replace them and pay the worker who is on a waiting list, ready to go to the voting precincts,” she said.

Join the Discussion

Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service