Reinstate Rain To Her Job at Ellwood Thompson’s! Demand An End To Retaliation!
Richmond, Va – On behalf of Rain Burroughs, the Richmond, Virginia General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Food & Retail Workers United (FRWU) delivered a formal letter [ download here ] to Rick Hood (owner) and Tommy Langford (store manager) on December 21, 2012 requesting that Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market reinstate Rain Burroughs immediately to an equivalent job with comparable pay, benefits, responsibilities, and hours of work. We have yet to receive any response, and we ask for your support.
Rain Burroughs was granted, via the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), leave in order to assist her mother who was struggling with severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Burroughs’ leave ended on November 20, 2012 when she returned to work at Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market. Rather respect a loyal worker and honoring the commitment that had been made to them, Ellwood Thompson’s chose to label Burroughs as a new hire and placed her on “probation”. This action by Ellwood Thompson’s violates federal law which states:
“Job guaranteed leave means that the employer, in most circumstances, must return the employee to the same or equivalent job after leave, even if the employee has been replaced in the interim. See, 29 U.S.C. §2614(a). An equivalent job is one that has comparable pay, benefits, responsibilities, and hours of work. Id. at §2614(a).”
Despite being an ‘at will’ employee, Burroughs’ status as a new hire apparently opened the door for her termination which occurred a mere three weeks after she returned from FMLA leave. This in theory would not have been possible were she not on “probation”.
According to Burrough’s, after being a loyal employee for over two years, she received a written warning for arriving late to work, following some confusion over a last minute schedule change, and was summarily terminated after arriving late a second time. These two actions were enough for Ellwood Thompson’s to decide to fire an employee who was experiencing great stress and upheaval in her family.
Who is Ellwood Thompson’s?
Ellwood Thompson’s is a Richmond, Virginia based natural and organic grocery store, owned and operated by Rick Hood since 1989. In recent news, Mr. Hood has decided to expand his budding empire into Rockville, Maryland under the guise of Dawson’s Market.
According to the Ellwood Thompson’s website, under the “mission & values” section, they aspire…
“…to be the heart and soul of our community through a strong commitment to local and organic foods.” and continue to claim that “nearly every single decision we make in the store is based off of that statement. We know that every choice we make and every action we take will somehow, big or small, directly impact our community.”
“Big or small”, the “heart and soul” of our community has “impacted” a community member and worker whose very subsistence relies on the kindness and understanding of that community.
We’d like to remind Ellwood Thompson’s that “community” is more than the relationship between their products and the consumer. Community includes the workers behind those products, along the entire supply chain, from the farm to the table. The contribution of those who sew the seed, harvest the crops, process and package, distribute, transport, and stock the shelves are an inseparable part of your businesses success and we will not be taken for granted. We demand respect and dignity for all workers, and take seriously watch words of our Union, “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday, a man who died while standing up for the rights of sanitation workers to organize in Memphis, Tennesee, we extend his words to you Ellwood Thompson’s:
“We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”
Take Action! Phone Blast / Email Blast! A Communications Blockade!
In the interest of all workers, we are calling upon you to help send a short and sharp message to Ellwood Thompson’s management. We will jam their phone lines during the busiest time of the day, lunch time, making it clear that we do not approve of their definition of community and treatment of workers.
We are calling on Ellwood Thompson’s to reinstate Rain Burroughs immediately to an equivalent job with comparable pay, benefits, responsibilities, and hours of work. In doing so, Ellwood Thompson’s would be sending a strong message to both its employees and community, that they are indeed interested in being a responsible employer and community member which respects their employee’s right to take Family Medical Leave.
This is an on-going call for national support. It will continue until justice is won. Please call (frequently) the following numbers (804) 359-7525 and ask to speak with human resources (Lauri Colbert) or a store manager (Todd Taylor, Gray Carson, Tommy Langford) . You may give the main office a call as well (804) 612-1024 and leave a message with Rick Hood.
Here is a sample script:
Hello, my name is _________ and I am calling in support of Rain Burroughs in demanding that she be immediately reinstated to her former position and for there to be an end to retaliation against employees who are trying to do what they can to care for their families. We urge you to meet and negotiate with Burrough’s representatives in the IWW.
Richmond Industrial Workers of the World