Chicago, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) – A group of workers protested the Mars Candy Company recently saying that the company is not only not honoring a petition given to management by workers, but retaliating against workers who signed it.
According to Warehouse Workers for Justice, the Mars Workers for Justice committee delivered a petition signed by nearly 100 Mars workers to demand changes to their working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among their demands were hazard pay, paid time off if quarantined, company-provided personal protective equipment and the elimination of employee’s point system during the health crisis.
The unions allege that since the petition was delivered, at least three have been fired, leading to those employees filing Unfair Labor Practice complaints against Mars and its contractors.
Workers are now also asking that the company shut down the plant to allow for disinfection and cleaning, while paying employees, given the number of COVID cases the company has seen, and to end the retaliation and intimidation of employees who have asked for greater protection at work.
Ryan Johnson, one of the speakers at the protest rally in front of the Chicago-based companies Warehouse, said since delivering the petition with co-workers, he feels he’s being targeted.
“I’ve been there for two years as a forklift driver… After bringing the petition with a few co-workers, I was brought to the office and the general manager said he was not going to honor the petition… because I brought the petition to him, I became public enemy number one. I feel intimidated,” he said. “He said that wishes that he could fire me. I never had any assurance of my employment there, but I was given notice that if I had a bad production day, I would be fired. A few days ago, I had a corrective action brought up against me for being ‘disruptive.’
Johnson said there have been four cases in the past week, when they were sent home early with no pay. A high-risk individual, who lives with family members who are also high-risk, he said he wanted the company to take the lead and take precautions to protect its employees.
Another protestor, Demonica Moore, said she started working as a temp worker at the warehouse in 2017. She said she was fired after signing the petition.
“I went from only having one write-up to being fired and placed on the Do Not Return list,” she said. “A Do Not Return list means you are fired and you cannot work with that staffing agency anymore. It does not make sense to me. The only explanation I have left is that I signed a petition for better pay during COVID-19 back in July and this was retaliation against me. But I know it is my right to ask for better pay and better protections at my work.”
Last month, Grant Reid, the CEO of Mars, said the company is working to take care of its employees.
“We’ve had to shift quickly to new ways of working, address unprecedented challenges and deal with a great deal of ambiguity. This year has taken its toll on all of us. And, yet, what has shone through is resilience, hope and the care we have for each other as a team. That has truly inspired me,” he said in an open letter to his employees in August, according to Confectionary Production magazine. “In the face of coronavirus, our priority has been to do everything in our power to protect the health and wellbeing of Mars associates. That included trying to provide peace of mind by putting pay and benefit continuity principles in place. We have continued to provide income and benefits to all associates, even those who needed time off due to illness, quarantine, temporary site closures or reductions in working hours. I’m grateful that the financial freedom and all the principles we have as a family business allowed us to do this.”