Candy com­plaints

The Coast - - THIS WEEK -

An open let­ter to Freak Lunch­box’s own­ers Jeremy Smith and Erin Sch­wanz, We are writ­ing to­day as a group of for­mer Freak Lunch­box em­ploy­ees. We must chal­lenge your as­ser­tion—quoted in The Coast’s De­cem­ber 20 ar­ti­cle “Labour con­cerns at Freak Lunch­box” and again in your Jan­uary 3 let­ter to the ed­i­tor “A Freak sit­u­a­tion”—that Freak Lunch­box is a good place to work.

As em­ploy­ers, it is not up to you to de­ter­mine what is or is not a good place to work. You ref­er­ence your com­pli­ance with Labour Stan­dards Code min­i­mums, but that is woe­fully in­suf­fi­cient. Fur­ther, you have shown hos­til­ity to any sug­ges­tion of pro­vid­ing any more than the min­i­mum, even for things that are in­dus­try stan­dard across re­tail en­vi­ron­ments. While paid 15-minute breaks, an­tifa­tigue mats, anti-slip mats for out­side and the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase warm uni­form sweaters are not set out in labour laws, they are pro­vided widely across the re­tail sec­tor.

You play the card of be­ing a small fam­ily run busi­ness or a cor­po­ra­tion de­pend­ing on what is most ad­van­ta­geous. When we asked for 15-minute breaks we were told that, as a small busi­ness, you could not af­ford to. Yet, when we asked for a meet­ing with you, you replied that you [weren’t] run­ning a candy store, [you were] run­ning a cor­po­ra­tion.

In your re­sponses, you have sin­gled out one in­di­vid­ual and slan­dered her char­ac­ter. This is in­cred­i­bly in­ap­pro­pri­ate, im­ma­ture and un­pro­fes­sional—the very things that you ac­cused us of when all we asked was to meet with you col­lec­tively. You have con­sis­tently tried to paint our col­lec­tive ac­tion as that of one dis­grun­tled em­ployee. This is both un­true and in­sult­ing to the work we put in, lis­ten­ing to each other’s con­cerns, plan­ning and writ­ing col­lec­tively to ex­press our needs as work­ers. We know that it is less threat­en­ing to think that one per­son is chal­leng­ing the sta­tus quo, and we know you know the power work­ers have when we stand to­gether. That is why you re­acted to our col­lec­tive ac­tion with in­di­vid­ual meet­ings.

You say that the em­ployee in ques­tion did not bring her con­cerns up to you in­di­vid­u­ally be­fore­hand. This is both un­true and ig­nores the power that you held as em­ploy­ers over our lives. We had been ask­ing for anti-slip mats for two years, sweaters for one year and paid 15-minute breaks for a num­ber of months. All of these had been brought up in­di­vid­u­ally to our man­ager, in the com­mu­ni­ca­tion binder, and col­lec­tively in staff meet­ings. By the time we re­quested a meet­ing with you, we felt that we had ex­hausted what we could achieve with the chan­nels that had been set out for us. Work­ers have the right to make col­lec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion to their bosses be­cause of the in­her­ent power im­bal­ance be­tween bosses and work­ers.

Your side of this story has been told. Both your side in­di­vid­u­ally as the own­ers of Freak Lunch­box, and the side of busi­ness own­ers broadly. You profit from your im­age as a de­sir­able place to work, a quirky lo­cal busi­ness with Dis­ney-char­ac­ter em­ploy­ees who love their jobs. Our side, the side of work­ers who in­di­vid­u­ally hold lit­tle power in the em­ployer-em­ployee re­la­tion­ship, is rarely told. But we will not be si­lent any­more. —Sev­eral for­mer em­ploy­ees, with sup­port from the In­dus­trial Work­ers of the World

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.