Monday, July 9, 2012

Swimming Against the Tide

I left out some information from yesterday’s post about Tomas Lopez, the heroic lifeguard fired for saving a drowning man’s life, so let me update the record.

Lifeguards Travis Madrid and Zoard Janko were fired after telling the corporation they would have done what Tomas did. "They sat me down and told me that my answer will determine if I get to keep my job or not," Madrid told reporters. "When I told him I would do the same thing that Tommy did, they told me I was dismissed. I don't want to work for a company like that."

After firing Tomas and being confronted by a wave of public criticism, corporate head Jeff Ellis, according to local station WPTV, stated it would investigate whether "our actions on the part of the leadership team were inappropriate, we will rectify it based upon the information that comes forward." Shouldn't the investigation and information gathering come before the firing of an employee? 

City spokesman Peter Dobens said, “It’s always been city policy, whether it’s in a protected or unprotected area, to respond to an emergency.” The mayor said Tomas should have been offered the key to the city, not fired. Perhaps he would have been, had Hallandale Beach not outsourced its public safety responsibility to a private corporation.

Jeff Ellis Management paid Tomas and the other lifeguards $8.25 an hour to risk their lives and save others. The corporation, in turn, is paid $335,000 annually by the city. Its decision to fire Tomas was easy: those profits (you do the math) were at risk from potential lawsuits."We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area," corporate supervisor Susan Ellis said. Tomas’ decision was even easier: a man’s life was at risk.

Jobs are hard to come by today and corporations know it. They are hiring college graduates as unpaid interns, dangling the prospect of a potential job “in the future”. They are asking employees to do things those employees would never agree to in good economic times when jobs are plentiful: accept pay cuts, give up benefits, work longer hours, do the work of recently-fired co-workers, and apparently, even sit back and watch a man drown. Few are in a position to respond with Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It.” Tomas Lopez proved sometimes you have to swim against the tide. Perhaps it’s time for us to re-examine Corporate America’s values… and our own.


  1. Admittedly I have no idea how these things work - but in lieu of this fiasco, does the city of Hallandale have the *option* of terminating their contract with this corporation?

    OR, at the very [and I mean this in the strictest sense of the word] LEAST, surely the mayor & city council would be moved to convene and reconsider their decision to privatize their city's public safety?

  2. I don't know what their contract states regarding under what circumstances they may terminate it, but they I would hope when it comes up for renewal, they would reconsider using the same firm, if not the whole idea of privatization. I think the odds are greater if we continue to shine the spotlight on them and make the public aware of what local, state, and national governments are doing. Change can and will come at all levels from the grassroots when enough people become aware of the facts (not propaganda and misrepresentation) and are riled up enough to act. All I can do, on any given issue, is try to present the facts to as many readers as I can.

  3. I think our burgeoning social media goes a long way to bring matters such as this, and similar, to public awareness.

    Kudos for your efforts in doing your part, the best way you can [good Karma, baby! lol] :D