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A former Trader Joe’s employee said he was fired by the grocery store for requesting better coronavirus protection for workers.
Ben Bonnema, who worked at the store’s 545 branch on the Upper West Side in New York city, said he wrote to the company’s CEO Dan Bane in February, pointing to new studies about aerosol transmission of Covid-19 and calling for a series of safety measures – including better air filtration, limits to store capacity based on CO2 levels and a “three strikes policy” for customers who refuse to wear a mask.
He also requested that nobody be allowed into the store without wearing a mask and for information about the air filtration systems.
“We put our lives on the line everyday by showing up to work. Please, show up for us by adopting these policies,” he wrote in the letter which he shared on Twitter and has been retweeted over 44,000 times.
Then, on 26 February, he said he was dismissed. “Trader Joe’s just fired me for sending this letter to the CEO, saying I don’t share the company values. I guess advocating for a safer workplace isn’t a company value?” he wrote.
In an “incident report”, which he also shared online, it said his suggestions “are not in line with our core values”.
It added: “You state that Trader Joe’s not ‘showing up for us’ without adopting your policies. It is clear that you do not understand our values. As a result, we are no longer comfortable having you work for Trader Joe’s.”
Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment. But in a statement to BuzzFeed News, company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel denied the claims, saying that the company had “never, and would never, terminate a crew member’s employment for raising safety concerns”.
She said: “During his short tenure with Trader Joe’s, this crew member’s suggestions were listened to, and appropriately addressed. Store leadership terminated this Crew Member’s employment because of the disrespect he showed toward our customers.”
Bonnema, who is also a musical theatre writer, now plans to fight the dismissal which he claims is “retaliatory termination” and to present his case to the National Labour Relations Board.
“Mr Bonnema’s spotless employment record with the company is only further evidence that the company’s decision to terminate him from his employment was an unlawful attempt to threaten, restrain and coerce Mr Bonnema and his coworkers from engaging in protected concerted activity,” his lawyer, Benjamin Dictor told the news website.
“Mr Bonnema has a federally-protected right to advocate for the workplace safety of his colleagues. Terminating him for doing so is reprehensible.”
In November Trader Joe’s said that 1,250 of Trader Joe’s 53,000 employees had tested positive for coronavirus within eight months and that it was “suspected to be a contributing factor” in two employee deaths.
Several scientists have spoken out in Bonnema’s defence.
Jose-Luis Jimenez, a university of Colorado professor who was among a group of scientists who wrote to the Biden administration calling for better protection for workers, wrote: “Shame on Trader Joe’s. And on @CDCgov’s inaction that allows this.”
Kimberly Prather, a professor at University of California San Diego, said: “His letter is an excellent science-based request. We have been shopping there for 20 years. We will stop until Trader Joe’s takes this seriously.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Trader Joe’s employee says he was fired for requesting better Covid protections | New York