Meals on Wheels drivers fired amid pay dispute

HOUSTON The drivers said they refused to do their work, because their paychecks were too irregular. Now, city officials say it's a sign of bigger problems with the YWCA and they are investigating.

Houston City Council member Mike Sullivan says he's heard of problems within the agency for years. This incident with the drivers is just the last straw. That's why he's asking the city controller's office to take a hard look inside the agency.

When driver John Parker picked up his check Monday morning, he never imagined it would be his last.

"How do I react to it? I mean, I think it's wrong," he said.

According to the workers, at least a dozen drivers were let go Monday morning, all because they demanded their pay for services rendered.

Driver Kimberly Lewis said, "It's being told to us that we let them down, when in actuality they let us down."

It was Friday when the YWCA had to scramble to find volunteers after 23 drivers refused to go on their routes complaining they were constantly being paid late. The director accused the drivers of behaving badly, but council member Mike Sullivan points the finger the at her.

He said, "Rather than the director sitting down with a compassionate ear and trying to work this out with the people who have proven that they love what they do, she fires them and I think that's wrong."

On Monday Sullivan met with the city controller to ask that a complete performance audit be done on the agency.

"Every contract that the city has with YWCA," Sullivan explained. "That's how concerned I am with what's going on over there."

We attempted to speak to the CEO Diana Morales Taylor but we were not even allowed on the property.

In a statement issued Monday morning, Taylor wrote the drivers were paid in full, saying, "We are currently reevaluating our Meals on Wheels program and will make necessary adjustments so it is more efficient and more responsive to the needs of our seniors."

At least one driver finds the handling of the situation completely unacceptable.

Lewis said, "I don't see how one person can be so heartless."

We made several calls to try to speak with the director, but our calls have not been returned. A spokesperson from the Health and Human Services department said they will have to meet with the YWCA and determine exactly what happened today and also determine what changes, if any, need to be done to the contract.

HOUSTON - May 10, 2010 - The YWCA Houston Senior Services program is dedicated to empowering and addressing the needs of our local senior citizens by offering human interaction, camaraderie, and healthy meals. That priority will never change. In fact, we are constantly working on ways to improve our policies and programs.

Our Meals on Wheels program provides meals to more than 1,700 local seniors daily. Some are served at one of our 15 congregate settings while others receive their meals at home. We have been doing this work for more than 35 years.

On May 7, our volunteers successfully delivered meals to our seniors despite the situation involving our contracted drivers. We apologize if there was any inconvenience.

We also want to resolve the miscommunication regarding the issue involving the contracted drivers. They have been paid in full for services rendered. We are currently reevaluating our Meals on Wheels program and will make necessary adjustments so it is more efficient and responsive to the needs of our seniors.

We will keep you updated on all new developments regarding this matter and look forward to getting back to our mission, enhancing the quality of life for seniors throughout our community.

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