February 13, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
Mt. Kisco, NY – Nine workers recently fired from the Mrs. Green’s Natural Market on Lexington Avenue after attempting to unionize, are getting more help in their campaign to win back their jobs this week – and advocates for the axed employees say that the group will ultimately prevail.
“We are going to win this,” Assemblymember Shelley Mayer told LaborPress. “The pressure is definitely on Mrs. Green’s.”
Up until now, the Canadian-based retail chain has largely been intractable, keeping mum about its actions even after coming out on the losing end of several National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] rulings.
But this week, both elected officials and regular patrons of the 666 Lexington Avenue store, joined workers on the picket line, calling on Mrs. Green’s to immediately reinstate the axed employees.
“These are not new workers,” said Aly Waddy, director of organizing, UFCW Local 1500. “The community knows them very well. When people realize what’s happened, they say, ‘Oh, god! you were fired?’”
Mrs. Green’s management maintains that the nine Latino workers – some with more than a decade on the job – were terminated due to poor customer relations. The union fighting on the workers behalf, however, isn’t buying that justification.
“It is clear that what management is trying to do is break up the union,” Waddy added.
Last spring, Local 1500 lost a union election at the store by a slim margin of just three votes. As a result, the union made it clear that they intended to file for a new election as soon as possible.
Subsequent to that, however, some of the most outspoken workers pushing for unionization found themselves terminated.
“There is limited opportunity to work here,” Assemblymember Mayer continued. “This store is their lifeline to support their families.”
Like Assemblymember Mayer, Assemblymember David Buchwald, representing District 93, has also become a vocal supporter of the axed Mrs. Green’s workers. At the time of this writing, the local representative was reportedly drafting a letter to management, directly urging them to reinstate the nine workers now spending their days manning the frigid picket line outside the store.
“They're scared,” Waddy continued. “They’re afraid for their future. For them, this was their bread and butter.”
At the same time, the union representative, says that Mrs. Green’s management should also be wary.
“The company should be afraid as well, “ Waddy said. “They know that we are not going away.”
According to Local 1500, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market has a troubled history with workers who have sought better pay and benefits through unionization.
In the past, rather than recognize union representation, the company has closed down outlets in both Canada and the U.S., Similar fears persist now.
“We fear that this company has a grand plan that hasn’t been unveiled yet,” Waddy said. “And the community wants answers.”