Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mrs. Green's Natural Market Unlawfully Terminated Employees, Breached Settlement Agreement, NLRB Region Finds

Unlawfully terminated workers walk a picket line at Mrs. Green's

 A National Labor Relations Board Regional Director charged Mrs. Green's Natural Market with unlawfully terminating eight employees in January 2014 for "supporting a union," and set the case for trial on July 14.

After an internal investigation by a Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board, the Director has found merit to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1500's unfair labor practice charges alleging that Mrs. Green's Natural Market unlawfully terminated 8 employees because they supported the Union.

The Regional Director also revoked a previous settlement of unfair labor practices (November 2013) between Local 1500, the NLRB and Mrs. Green's. In that settlement, Mrs. Green's agreed to cease their anti-union conduct, promising to create a safe, intimidation-free work environment for the workers. The company also agreed to post a notice in their store for 60 days that informed all employees of their basic rights at work, including the right to form and organize a union. In a complete disrespect for the settlement with the government and workers' rights, during a one week span in January, Mrs. Green's abruptly fired 8 leading Union supporters, some of whom had met with local politicians about their campaign. The company then ripped the required notice from the walls of their store prior to the end of the 60-day period.

A Federal Labor Complaint was then issued against Mrs. Green's, alleging that Mrs. Green's violated the law when it terminated Union supporters Luis Alomoto, Helen Fuentes, Yessica Mendez, Elvia Miguel, Elena Perez, David Ramirez, Martha Urgiles, and Leoncio Naranjo. The Complaint also alleged: Mrs. Green's maintenance of unlawful confidentiality and no solicitation rules; interrogations about Union activity; creating the impression of surveillance of Union activity; threats that supporting the Union is futile; threats workers would not receive wage increases and other benefits if they supported the Union; threats the company would declare bankruptcy if the Union came in; and promises of benefits if the Union was rejected.

The trial will be heard before an Administrative Law Judge of the NLRB in July. "We're confident that we will receive justice," said David Ramirez who worked at Mrs. Green's in Mt. Kisco for nearly 10 years until he was fired this January, "We could not have gotten this far and received this decision without the support from the Union and the Mt. Kisco community, who have walked the picket line with us during a cold winter. That meant a lot to all of us and gave us support and energy to continue to hold strong and fight for our rights," said Ramirez.

The Union is urging the company to reinstate all unlawfully fired workers, "We are urging the Company to reinstate the unlawfully terminated workers immediately and spare the workers and community the expense and strain of a hearing," said UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce W. Both, "The evidence is overwhelming that these workers were not fired for performance issues, but were intimidated, threatened, and then fired for simply standing up for their basic rights at work."

UFCW Local 1500 Organizing Director, Aly Waddy, explained the fear managers instilled in the workers, "Workers were escorted out of the store when they were terminated. If you need a federal judge's order to put you back to work, it's obvious it's not what your boss wants to do, and there's an obvious fear that you're always going to have after going through something that devastating," Waddy explained. When asked about returning to work, Ramirez simply said, "We want respect, protection and security at work once we return."

Since January, the fired workers have received an outpouring of support from community and politicians who have called for a boycott of the store. The picket line remains up at 666 Lexington Ave. Mt. Kisco, NY. Last week, days after the federal complaint was issued and after 18 months on the job, Mrs. Green's parent company, Natural Market Food Group CEO Robin Michel was ousted.

Visit ufcw1500.org/greenismean for more information.

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