Forced out for standing up
ON JANUARY 5, my partner and her friends from a neighboring store within the local chain they all work for started a secret Facebook group to discuss among themselves how they could work together to secure pay at the state minimum wage, as well as safety issues such as poor lighting in their kitchen. They are waged as tipped workers at an hourly rate of $9.50 to $9.78, compared to the state minimum wage in Massachusetts of $12 an hour.
On February 1, an hourly manager gained access to this group and turned over all the names to the owner. That day, my partner was bullied out of her job by one of the owners and an hourly manager, as retaliation for discussing wages and conditions with fellow workers at different locations.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, under federal law, employees are entitled to a safe workplace. Employers must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. If employees have concerns, they have the right to speak up about them without fear of retaliation.
According to the Department of Labor, retaliation based on the exercise of workplace rights is unlawful:
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforces the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the rights of most private-sector workers to form, join, decertify, or assist a labor organization (union), and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, or to refrain from such activities. Employees may also join together to improve terms and conditions of employment without a union. The law forbids employers from interfering with employees in the exercise of rights to form, join or assist a labor organization for collective bargaining, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity. Similarly, labor organizations may not interfere with employees in the exercise of these rights.
Yet on-the-ground actions against retaliation to hold employers accountable are not as easy.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission definitions of retaliation include: "reprimand of the employee, poor performance evaluation that is lower than it should be; transfer of the employee to a less desirable position; verbal or physical abuse; threaten to make, or actually make reports to authorities; increased scrutiny; or making the person's work more difficult."
We have all witnessed these kinds of things at work as service workers. My question is: What can we do now in our communities as organized socialists to hold these businesses accountable to even the established laws, and support these comrades?
Arno Noack, from the Internet