The Militant (logo) 
   Vol.65/No.49            December 24, 2001 
Garment worker fired for political views
wins unemployment benefit in Florida
(front page)
MIAMI--"The claimant was discharged because of political views. No information has been submitted which substantiates misconduct." This is the reason given by the Florida Unemployment Compensation Program for their decision to grant Michael Italie unemployment benefits. Italie was fired from his job as a sewing machine operator by Goodwill Industries here October 22.

"In accordance with Section 443, Florida Statutes: Benefits are payable because: The discharge was for reasons other than misconduct with the work," read the determination by the government agency.

This victory in the fight against the political firing of Italie was welcomed by his supporters here. "Goodwill was trying to starve me out," Italie said in an interview, "but the company underestimated both my resolve and the determination of working people to defend freedom of speech. Together with other defenders of civil liberties we will expose Goodwill Industries for the vicious anti-worker outfit it is and make it pay the highest possible price for its anti-worker and unconstitutional action in firing me for expressing my political views."

The ruling came two days after a December 8 meeting of 90 people that featured a range of prominent speakers in defense of freedom of speech and calling for the reinstatement of Italie and Mohammad Rahat, a 22-year-old fired by the University of Miami for a statement he made about Osama bin Laden.

Italie said that when he submitted his unemployment compensation application, he was asked by the interviewer why he was fired. Italie explained that bosses at Goodwill had dismissed him for political statements he made as a candidate of the Socialist Workers Party during a televised debate outside of work. He told the official that Goodwill had given no work-related reason for his dismissal.

So far, Goodwill has not responded to the unemployment agency with any statement about the firing. By dragging their feet, though, Goodwill bosses did delay the issuance of unemployment benefits for nearly two months.

In addition to the ruling, Italie celebrated this step forward in his fight because he received a check for $781 to cover jobless benefits for the first five weeks since his dismissal. His weekly unemployment check will be a little over $140.

The December 6 ruling by the Florida unemployment agency states that either party has 20 days to challenge its findings, and that any appeal must be filed in writing.

Italie encouraged his supporters across the country to inform others of the victory and to put to use the fact that the state unemployment office stipulated the political character of the firing and the fact that it had nothing to do with Italie's work performance.
Related articles:
Meeting in Miami builds support for fired garment worker
Fired garment worker wins support from strikers, students in Northeast
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