Nine workers fired last month from Mrs. Green’s Natural Markets in Mount Kisco and organizers from the United Food and Commercial Workers union have continued to picket outside the store to protest the company’s unfair labor practices.
The workers, all closely involved in scheduling a union election to join Local 1500 last May, were let go about three weeks ago from the Lexington Avenue store, said Aly Waddy, the director of organizing for the Westbury, N.Y.-based UFCW.
Waddy said the employee averaged seven years of employment with the store and were told they were being let go because of poor customer service or that the company was looking to trim its workforce. However, none of the workers had been told that their work was substandard and new workers have been rehired to replace those who were terminated, she said.
“So if customer service was bad, then the question that it leads to is why was there no action taken before that and why don’t we cite what it is exactly that they did as far as customer service (goes) because there were given no other reason, Waddy said.
In an eight-page decision dated Nov. 1, the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concluded that Mrs. Green’s had engaged in unfair labor practices. Some of the nine workers who were fired provided the NLRB with testimony stating they were interrogated, threatened with loss of hours and were told their activities were being monitored by store or company personnel.
Various perks, including advancement and/or increased hours, were promised to some workers if they rejected the attempts at organizing, according to the NLRB decision.
Messages left by The Examiner for company representatives at the firm’s Irvington offices were not returned.
Meanwhile, the fired workers have been taking turns over the past few weeks walking the picket line in front of the store from about 11 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. in bone chilling cold. Former cashier and counter worker Jessica Yesika, a Mount Kisco resident who worked at Mrs. Green’s for the past four years, said she feels fortunate because she has another job. However, many of her colleagues have lost their only source of income.
“For me, it’s not really hard, but I know some people they only had that job and they have families outside the country, so it’s really hard,” Yesika said. “That’s why I’m here supporting them.”
Local 1500 organizer Mario Gonzalez said union representatives and the fired workers will remain outside the store until the former employees get their jobs back or there’s an agreement to stop firing people for trying to organize.
“You have to abide by the law,” Gonzalez said. “It’s the same thing for a company, and for a company to ignore laws that’s a message that the public needs.”
A fresh complaint will also be filed with the government against Mrs. Green’s in connection with the firings, Waddy said. Currently, the union reps and the workers have been giving statements to the NLRB and the union has also filed charges.
So far, public support has been strong, with cars continually honking horns and frequent words of encouragement, she said. However, the firings have had a chilling effect on the remainder of the workers who are afraid of losing their jobs.
“They wanted to make a change, they wanted to better their working condition and after that they were very engaged, very involved,” Waddy said of the workers’ motivation. “There was a lot of support in the store.”