|Fired workers urge people not to shop at Bestway.|
Alex Amaya has been working at Bestway, the Latino grocery store on Graham Road and Route 50, for 10 years and gets no paid holidays, no vacation time, and no overtime pay for working a 60-hour week. As a grocery manager in charge of ordering merchandise, he earns just $7.95 an hour, which doesn’t go very far in supporting his wife and two-year-old daughter.
That’s why Amaya joined 30 of his co-workers in demanding better treatment from the Bestway management. After they were all fired for trying to start a union, they have gathered on the street in front of the store with signs and a megaphone blaring at potential customers, “Don’t shop Bestway!”
“The most important thing is make sure we get respect from our employer,” said Edgardo Diaz, the former manager of the meat department at Bestway. He was paid just $7.55 an hour, while someone with a comparable job at Giant earns $18 an hour, says Guillermo Zelaya, a representative of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400, which is supporting the Bestway workers.
Diaz said Bestway requires people to work on holidays, including Christmas Eve, with no extra pay, and when he asked for a vacation, he was told he had to work for five more years to get one day of paid leave.
Diaz is originally from Honduras, where he said grocery employees are given health insurance, time off for holidays, and year-end bonuses. “I didn’t think it would be like this in America,” he said.
What’s more, the fired Bestway workers, who are nearly all Latinos, say the Korean owner of the supermarket has made disparaging racist comments to them and has different, better employment policies for his Korean employees.
“It got to the point where they decided to confront the manager as a group and demand that they respect them more and respect their choice to join a union,” Zelaya said.
After an overwhelming majority of workers signed cards to join Local 400, Bestway refused to recognize the union, resorting to intimidation, cutting hours, and threats to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. When the workers staged a one-hour work stoppage to draw attention to the situation, Bestway fired 30 of them on the spot, in violation of federal labor laws. A manager also quit her job in solidarity with the fired workers.
The workers believe their protest is having an impact; they say there were fewer cars than usual in the Bestway parking lot.