Militant Journalism

‘Black workers matter!’ Dorchester non-profit workers fight illegal union retaliation

College Bound Dorchester/Boston Uncornered management announced a mass layoff of eight workers on June 12 one third of the organization’s employees. The workers report that this layoff is “blatant, illegal retaliation against the entire staff, who announced their decision to unionize under the name Uncornered United-SEIU Local 888 on June 2.”

The mission of College Bound Dorchester and the Boston Uncornered Program is to empower gang-involved young people to become agents of change in their communities. The non-profit organization bolsters the philosophy that those closest to the issues — notably, “systemic generational urban poverty and violence” — must be leaders in addressing these issues. The majority of CBD staff are Black and Brown workers born and raised in the Boston area, and six of the eight terminated staff are Black. High-paid, Yale-educated white CEO Mark Culliton cited financial difficulties as the reason behind the layoffs, despite raising $650,000 in donations at the organization’s annual fundraiser just three days prior. 

“Hey there Mark! What do ya say? How many more will you lay off today?”

On June 16, a crowd of nearly a hundred staff, students, community members and labor leaders gathered at the Little House office of College Bound Dorchester/Boston Uncornered for a press conference and march. Kenny Schoonmaker, a College Readiness Advisor and employee of CBD for four years told the crowd: “This ain’t right. It’s not right to raise money and fire people. It’s not right to be… a white man at the head of an organization in a Black community and we tell him it’s not right, and he says ‘sit the f*ck down, sit over there’ — that’s not right.” 

“Black workers matter!” Liberation Photo.

Darlene Lombos, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council echoed Schoonmaker’s sentiment: “We’ve got this person [Culliton], who’s saying he’s with us, and he is absolutely against us. This is blatant racism. This is what we say is racism with a smile.” Both speak to a concern that’s reflected amongst CBD workers — that Culliton evokes the imagery of Civil Rights for his own personal gain. 

“When Martin Luther King was assassinated, he was in Memphis showing solidarity with Black sanitation workers who were on strike. King knew that Black workers having a voice on the job is an integral component of racial justice. It’s not enough for white leaders to quote MLK. They have to put their money where their mouth is,” said a public statement from Uncornered United.

Back in January, Culliton laid off three long-time staff for being outspoken about issues with management, which prompted a staff walkout that ultimately formed into the unionizing campaign. Just six months later, Uncornered United went public to management. Joe Tache, a social studies instructor and CRA who was one of the eight laid off workers, said at the rally: 

“On June 2, we officially announced to College Bound leadership that we intended to unionize, and we asked them to voluntarily recognize us and negotiate with us…so the people closest to the students, closest to the work, have a voice in the organization.” 

“Marky C, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!”

The workers are demanding that Culliton (1) immediately reinstate the eight illegally terminated in retaliation for their unionizing efforts and (2) recognize the union, Uncornered United. As Schoonmaker noted, “We are pioneers of our community. We are the experts.” 

CBD staff, students, community members and labor leaders marched to CEO Mark Culliton’s home, June 16. Liberation photo.

“I need my tutor back. Without him, I’m basically f*cked,” Brittany Baldwin, a student at CBD told Liberation News. “If I don’t have my tutor, I can’t learn because I have a learning disability and I learn different from others. This is wrong. All of them should be reinstated.”

Ailson Lopes Carvalho, an English/Science instructor and CRA among the terminated workers, called on Culliton to do right by the staff, students and community he claims to serve.

“It would be a disservice to my students if I don’t come out and advocate on behalf of the team. We have the community on our side. You just have to pick what side you’re gonna be on.” 

Sign and share the petition by Uncornered United workers to demand College Bound Dorchester CEO Mark Culliton (1) immediately reinstate the eight workers who were terminated and (2) voluntarily recognize the union Uncornered United.

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