Last November, the Canadian based ownership of Mrs. Green’s changed hands. In Mt. Kisco, it meant a general halving of hours for many of the store’s 50 waged employees. Thus, employees sought a redress of the reduction directly with management. Failing any action, unionizing came up for consideration among the workers. The ensuing vote would eventually fail. Coincidentally, eight long time employees at the forefront of the initiative were fired during a ten day span in January for “poor customer service.” Whether a connection can be made between the two incidences is an ambiguity that can only be done proper justice through sarcasm.
“One would think,” deadpans Director of Organizing, Aly Waddy of UCFW Local 1500.
Of course, the pain of being out of work for six months is nothing to laugh at. The same goes for the intimidation levied upon workers as the union formation discussion was progressing toward a vote. “Through the process, the company broke the law,” she says. “They threatened workers. They told them they knew who was in the union and created an environment where workers could not make their decisions freely.”
A far cry from the benign image of a kindly lady overseeing her green vision on a family farm of happily indoctrinated workers. “I think that’s what they are trying to portray, but the reality is this is a large conglomerate,” she says, and the bad labor practices are not contained to our area, adds Waddy.
But back in town, Mt. Kisco hasn’t missed the long standing picket line. “There’s been an outpouring of support from the community. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a community that’s so progressive and understanding of worker’s rights,” says Waddy.
Staples in the community and well known among customers, the injustice extends beyond the average person navigating their way toward the Lexington Avenue location. “There was a boycott called for by County Legislator Peter Harckham and we really appreciate the support,” says Waddy.
Resolution and being made whole again, though, ultimately rests on the scales of justice for the workers. “We filed charges with the NLRB, stating that we believe these are illegal firings,” she says.
July will finally give these workers their day in court but firing eight workers with seven average years of employment in the middle of a union action must certainly seem an up and shut case – even to Mrs. Greens. That said, Waddy isn’t afraid to speculate that such brazen defiance of the law is simply seen as the cost of doing the business of squashing unions. The average person unable to endure even temporary unemployment, she says, “unfortunately this has become practice for many employers that break the law. It certainly taints the environment and creates a chill factor silencing workers. They made an “example” out of the workers that stepped out, clearly in an effort to stop additional efforts to join the Union.”
So in no uncertain terms Mrs. Green’s – we’re not amused
Rich Monetti interview of Aly Waddy.