If the second installment of New Seasons workers and supporters protesting the firing of long time employee Ryan Gaughan says anything about the groups' involvement, it's persistence. A melting pot of 40 or so New Seasons employees, union members, local activists, friends, and family of Gaughan took to the sidewalk outside the store's SE Division location today, waving bright signs and cheering exuberantly through the gray drizzle.
A follow-up to the Valentine's Day protest, the group aimed to expand public awareness of Gaughan's dilemma and the group's demands. Gaughan was fired from the Seven Corners New Seasons store in early February, after allegedly stealing two scoops of tofu and a scoop of rice from the store's deli. However, Gaughan and his supporters (dubbed New Seasons Market Workers' Voice) see the firing as a move to silence Gaughan and co.'s advocacy for better working conditions at the branch.
"It's not about tofu, it's not about rice, it's about workers and their rights!" cheered a cluster of raincoated ralliers toting large sticks with cardboard tofu skewered at the end.
The group also delivered a petition signed by 700 supporters to the store's management this afternoon. The petition's two requests:
1. Reinstate Ryan immediately; same job, same hours, and payment for lost wages since his termination on February 7.
2. Collaborate with workers to establish a peer-review system regarding disciplinary actions and terminations. Workers are entitled to have a peer witness present during disciplinary meetings, and the ability to directly contest disciplinary actions made by management. A meeting in the Seven Corners conference room to begin implementing these rights should take place no later than 60 days after this notice.
The groups' support is not limited to employees alone. Earlier this week, Jobs With Justice, a local workers' rights organization, publicly endorsed New Seasons Market Workers' Voice, a move that JWJ's Chris Ferlazzo called "extremely easy." Gaughan says that the group has met with a handful of other supportive local civil rights organizations around town to spread the word.
Customer Samir Said brought his family to the rally after receiving a flier at his local Sellwood branch. "I think it's ridiculous that a store that hands out free samples like it's nothing would crack down on a few pieces of tofu," said Said. "It's got to be something bigger than that."
While the management did not publicly interact with the group, New Seasons operations employees stood by the two entrances to keep an eye on the scene and make sure that customers could get in. They also handed out fliers explaining their take on the situation. "The protesters here are asking that a former New Seasons Market staff member be reinstated," reads the handout. "We can say the process was fair and the decision was appropriate and consistent with our long-standing employee policies."
Aside from their printed response, Gaughan says that management has been silent since the first rally. But he shows no signs of letting down. "We're in for it for the long haul," says Gaughan. "It's time to bring this issue to the table."
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