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What happened when the skating coaches wanted a union?

Now 39, she is one of several trainers taking on leadership roles, but other members say Ms. Chiang's steady, dispassionate commitment has strengthened her resolve. Many of them said they were concerned that their pro-union activism could jeopardize their future ability to work at Sky Rink.

“Angela is our Norma Rae,” said Amy Engeler, a trainer at Sky Rink for 28 years, referring to the character played by Sally Field in the 1979 film based on the organizing efforts of Crystal Lee Sutton. “But she’s not a hothead. She’s very quiet and thoughtful, and when she was ready to take a stand, we all took a look.”

The collective stepped up its organizing efforts last summer after the company presented coaches with a new contract that the coaches said cost them money. They said that after they objected, the company required that each trainer sign the new contract by noon on September 4, Labor Day. The coaches felt compelled to sign, but each added a line after signing: “Member, NYC Coaches Collective.” While it was a symbolic gesture, Ms. Chiang said it felt empowering. Six months later, Ms Chiang received the email informing her that she was no longer employed by Sky Rink.

Ms Halasa was informed of her dismissal shortly after handing out Coaches Collective leaflets at a gala dinner at Chelsea Piers. The dinner was hosted by North Star Fund, a social justice organization. Security guards tried to stop Ms. Halasa, but Jennifer Ching, the fund's executive director, who had given her permission to distribute the cards, intervened. Chelsea Piers staff later told Ms Halasa they were concerned the leaflets were linked to war protests.

She was released nine days later. The reason given, she said, related to a letter she wrote on behalf of the mother of a student who was going through a divorce. The letter angered the student's father, who complained to Sky Rink. Ms. Halasa said management discussed the letter with her in February and told her at the time that it was not appealable. She also believes she was fired because of her role in the union.

Anna Harden

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