MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Andre Morales enjoyed making bullets. It was decent work and paid well, and after a couple of months at the Hialeah factory, National Police Ammunition, Morales thought everything was going well.
“I like to say I was part of the team, or I thought I was,” he said last week.
He knew the owner of the company was a hardcore Republican, there was even a large banner with the word “TUMP – Make America Great Again” hanging in the warehouse. And while his views leaned more toward the Democrats, he didn’t think it would be a problem.
Then the day before this year’s election, something strange happened.
“A friend of mine called me and said, `Look this is what we will be doing tomorrow, we’re going to be campaigning for the Republican Party,’” Morales recalled. “And I had mixed feelings. I didn’t really know what to say or what to do.”
The next day he showed up for work and noticed all of this Republican campaign material in the warehouse.
“So I get there early in the morning and they have all these picketing signs up, and shirts, and all these flyers,” he said. “I felt very uneasy.”
Morales said his bosses, including the owner of the company, Erik Agazim, explained what was going to happen.
“They told us it was going to be a half day, everybody was going to have to stop what they were doing and they had to put on a shirt,” he said, referring to shirts for various Republican candidates.
He was given an orange T-shirt promoting Manny Diaz’s campaign for state senate. He said he had no idea who Manny Diaz was or what his positions were – he only knew he was a Republican.
“They took pictures and they wanted us to go to different precincts and start campaigning for the Republican Party on Election Day,” he said. “And I was like this is not what I signed up for.”
But he said he felt he had no choice and that if he didn’t agree to go he would be fired.
“We had to help their side whatever the cost,” Morales said.
Agazim declined a request to be interviewed. His company, National Police Ammunition (NPA), issued a statement:
“NPA, like all persons, physical and corporate, appreciates good government. And while NPA has offered personnel the option to demonstrate support for candidates and engage in political campaign activity, such activity is entirely voluntary on the part of any NPA employee. It is not, and never has been, a condition of continued employment.”
The company also provided written statements from half a dozen employees saying they were not pressured to work at polling sites and that it was entirely voluntary.
They also noted some employees chose not to go and suffered no adverse consequences. The company refused to allow CBS Miami to independently interview those individuals.
Agazim’s attorney, David Willig, noted: “NPA offered to the [Republican] Party to have employees work polling sites.”
He noted that the party provided all of the material and the precinct locations where the workers should be assigned.
Agazim has emerged in recent years as a major Republican donor and supporter of President Trump.
In 2016 he gave more than $15,000 to Trump’s campaign and the Trump Victory Committee, as well as another $7,300 to the Republican National Committee.
This year his corporation donated $30,000 to help Republican Matt Caldwell in the race for state Agriculture Commissioner, $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and he made personal donations to Republicans Ron DeSantis in his run for Governor and Jimmy Patronis who was running for the state’s Chief Financial Officer.
Saying he didn’t believe he had a choice, Morales donned his orange Manny Diaz T-shirt and was dispatched to the Ernest R Graham K-8 Academy, also known as precinct 360 – a Republican stronghold in Hialeah. He waved signs and handed out Republican literature.
Morales said he stayed at the polling site for about an hour and a half, but he wasn’t feeling well and he didn’t like what he was doing so he finally just decided to leave.
The next day he went back to work and during his shift was given an envelope with $120 in cash, which he was told was for his campaign work.
In a statement, Agazim’s attorney said: “The cash payment represents the money earned by the employees on election day, for those who chose to work at the polling site, but could not `clock in’ as on a regular day at the factory, and was paid by NPA.”
A few days after the election, Morales was fired after not showing up for work and then trying to change his schedule so he could start working another job. He said he was fine with leaving.
“I felt like it wasn’t a good place to work,” he said.