After Wards Supermarket workers petition management, one is fired
Concerned Ward's Workers
September 2008

[Editor's note. September 13, 200: After lots of community concern was expressed to Wards owners, Joe Richard was rehired with full back pay.]

On September 2nd, Joe Richard was fired from Ward's Supermarket. He believes, as do his co-workers, that the firing was illegal and was direct retaliation for his workplace organizing efforts.

On August 8th, Joe and 14 other employees in the Natural Foods Department submitted a petition to management requesting an increased employee discount and improved working conditions.

Our petition was largely ignored for three weeks while the owners, Billy and Trish Ward, went on vacation. After they returned, on August 25th they held one-on-one meetings with the employees who signed the petition, elaborating a new "open door" policy, by which employees could have 100% access to management if they had a concern or grievance. Beyond that, the requests listed in our petition were largely ignored.

Little over a week later, Joe was fired, ostensibly for "stealing" a bag of coffee, which is explicitly donated by Sweetwater Coffee Company for the personal use of Natural Foods Department employees. This free coffee, which was and continues to be intentionally given for employees to drink at work and take home, was routinely taken home and made every morning by numerous Department employees, including Joe. To our knowledge, no employee has ever been punished (either received written warnings or been discharged) for the offense of taking home this free product, which the store never paid a single cent for.

Joe didn't receive a written warning (as the employee handbook stipulates is appropriate for minor infractions) but was fired two days after checking out with the coffee in hand (buying eggs and donuts as well, on a Sunday morning).

We believe that Joe was illegally fired for taking part in the petition drive, as someone who vocally and outspokenly supported improvement in the working conditions of all the employees in the store. Having been identified as a "troublemaker" by the Wards, he was made an example of. As the National Labor Relations Act stipulates in Section (7)a, "Employees shall have the right to self-organization . . . for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid of protection." And thus, "It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7." Ward's has broken the law by firing Joe, and they've sent a chilling message to the rest of his co-workers who still insist on bettering their conditions.

Please, support the workers at Wards in their demand for a better life, and support their demand for Joe's immediate reinstatement. What they did is illegal, and the community must not stand for it.
Concerned Ward's Workers

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