|Fired Bestway workers call for a boycott.|
Workers who charge they’ve been illegally fired from their jobs at Bestway are staging a protest outside the Latino supermarket on Graham Road and urging people to boycott the store. All 31 employees were fired after they asked for a raise.
“We are not treated with respect,” said Matilda Reyes through translator Joanna Ramirez, 12, a student at Luther Jackson Middle School. Reyes has worked as a cashier at Bestway for 13 years and is paid $10 an hour. Many others earn just $7.25 an hour.
Employees get no vacations, no sick days, and no overtime pay, said Reyes, who lives with her husband and three children at Kingsley Commons across Route 50. She doesn’t know how she will be able to take care of her family without a job.
The owner of Bestway, Daniel Choi, brought in people from other Bestway stores to replace the workers he fired. Choi declined to comment for this article.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 is helping the Bestway employees organize and get their jobs back. Ninety-eight percent of them signed a union authorization card, said Guillermo Zelaya of UFCW Local 400.
According to Zelaya, the Bestway workers were not allowed to use the restroom during their shifts, which are sometimes as long as 13 hours. They had to work on the Fourth of July without holiday pay. They were not given any sick days and were fired if they got sick, he said.
One man, in his 40s, was fired after working at the store for 23 years because he was “too old,” Zelaya added, and some people have worked as long as 11 years without being allowed to take a vacation. Meanwhile, Choi was paying them half in cash and half with a check.
“While Virginia is a right-to-work state, that doesn’t give them the right to exploit workers,” Zelaya said. When the federal government reopens, Local 400 plans to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.