KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Current and former employees of Organic Earth Market on Quinpool Road in Halifax joined a picket line this morning to protest management’s efforts to break the union that workers established with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Many drivers honked in support.
According to the workers on the picket line these union busting efforts run the gamut from worker intimidation to the recent firing of two employees supportive of the unionization drive.
Donna Kim doesn’t doubt that she was fired on the day before the union certification vote because management suspected her of leading the effort to form a union at the health food store.
“We formed a union because we want to create a healthy workplace at the Organic Earth Market. We know that with the union we will have a stronger voice and the power to ensure that our workplace is safer and more respectful. We want this to be a good place to work and we want to thrive here,” Kim told the crowd.
“We’ve been intimidated, harassed, interrogated and fired. We’re shocked by how badly managers have responded. Workers and management could have collaborated to address the issues at work, but instead, we’re having to fight for basic rights,” she said.
Chloe MacDonald is a current employee who supports the fired workers.
“When I started working there I noticed right off the bat how much turnover was happening. I could tell that my co-workers weren’t being treated right. Even customers would come up to and ask where are all the people that used to work here?” MacDonald tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.
“We’re always working understaffed, everyone’s super overworked and tired, and it’s hard to even get a day off anymore,” MacDonald says.
The SEIU Local 2 has filed a complaint about the firing of the two employees with the Labour Board. Workers tell us that the Organic Earth Market also has filed a complaint, arguing that not all employees who voted in the union drive were eligible. Workers are confident that they won that vote regardless.
Store management also counters that workers were terminated because of performance issues, something that MacDonald gives little credence to.
“Our co-workers have been fired for no good reason, and right before the vote took place. (Management) are saying that it’s customer complaints, employee complaints, but there’s absolutely no proof whatsoever that any complaints even were made. When somebody complains it should be documented. Making these claims without any due process and documentation is unfair,” MacDonald says.
Picketers went out of their way to clarify that at this point in time they are not asking for a boycott of the store by its customers. However, any feedback to the store owners supportive of the workers would be much appreciated.
“All we wanted was to be able to voice our concerns about things like shifts without the threat of being fired. That is a big fear, that we would be punished for simply expressing a concern. We just wanted to suggest improvements,” says Kim.
We approached Organic Earth Market about the issues raised by employees and former employees and will update this article when a response is received.
SEIU Local 2 in Nova Scotia is located at 163 Wyse Road Dartmouth, NS B3A-1M5. Telephone: 902 455 1095. Toll Free (N.S. only): 1-800-563-1095.
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