New York City NY July 24 2017
Ten bomb-sniffing dog handlers, many of them 9/11 responders, claim their bosses at a major security firm are using their lovable Labs as pawns in a labor fight.
MSA Security, which has a $24 million contract with the city and patrols high-profile spots like the New York Stock Exchange, the Staten Island Ferry terminals, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, use the canine coworkers “as a means of retaliation” against workers who complain about low pay and lack of overtime — yanking the pups from handlers who spend a lifetime training, living, bonding and working with them, according to a lawsuit.
“The guys that work there take care of these dogs better than anybody,” a source said.
But that allegedly didn’t matter to MSA, which would snatch the dogs “at whim.”
“MSA could, and did remove dogs from the physical possession of [the handlers] for any reason or no reason” as a way to convey “direct and indirect threats for purposes of squelching dissent, maintaining ‘order in the ranks,’” the handlers charge.
And when the firm wasn’t snatching away the four-legged friends from “problem” employees, it was dumping older dogs on handlers without compensating them for escalating veterinary costs, the suit charges.
The company, once known as Michael Stapleton Associates, retires its explosives-detecting canines, usually Labrador Retrievers, when the dogs turn 9 years old. The aging dogs average $20,000 in medical needs.
“MSA avoided the obligation to financially support animals no longer useful to them, and shifted this expense to the [handlers], who cared for dogs they did not own because of the love they had for their animals and the unique psychological and emotional ties they had with them,” according to the lawsuit.
Launched in 1987, MSA Security has become a global powerhouse in the private and public sectors. Its 850 employees are led by CEO Michael O’Neil, who headed the NYPD’s first counterterrorism division, and other retired NYPD and FBI brass.
The unhappy handlers — Joseph Tallini, Michael Geidel, and 9/11 responders John Barrett, Bill Beauty, Joseph Belcastro, Peter Brown, John Hansen, Joseph Nacarlo, Richard Narciso and Patrick O’Connor — are nearly all NYPD veterans. They are seeking class-action status for the claims, which they believe could include more than 250 handlers.
The handlers are paid just $30 an hour for eight to 12 hour shifts, with unpaid breaks and no overtime or compensation for the dog’s care, meals, vet visits or training, they argue.
MSA’s Explosive Detection Canines, which help keep crowds safe at places like the Super Bowl, undergo extensive training that includes being hand fed for each meal after they practice their detecting skills.
The company brags about its “one dog, one handler” policy, which it says leads to “optimum performance, and keeps our dogs happy, healthy and effective.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as $5,000 for each underpaid handler.
MSA Security declined comment on the allegations but said in a statement it strives for a “positive working environment and the well-being of our employee handlers and canines is our top priority.”
NY Daily News