Mount Kisco Workers Picket Store, File Labor Board Appeal Over Firings

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Mrs. Green's Natural Food in Mount Kisco fired nine employees in January, who now say they were fired as retaliation for trying to unionize. The store denies the claims, and says it was based on performance. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Former Mrs. Green's employees claim they were fired unfairly.
Former Mrs. Green's employees claim they were fired unfairly. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. – Every day a group of people form a picket line outside Mrs. Green’s Natural Food on Lexington Avenue in Mount Kisco to protest their firing, which they say was unjust.

They hold up signs that say “Honk if you support worker’s rights” and “Mrs. Green’s fired me unfairly.” The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1500, which provided the signs, says the nine employees who were fired in January supported unionizing the store in a private vote last May. The majority voted not to unionize and the store says not all nine who were fired supported unionizing.

The store says the firings were based on performance and were one of several steps taken to reverse an 18-percent dip in sales from 2012 to 2013.

However, Local 1500 called the firings retaliation.
“Not only are the firings a retaliation, but Mrs. Green’s has demonstrated a clear disrespect for labor law, and basic civil rights of their employees,” said Tony Speelman, secretary-treasurer of the union.

The UFCW Local 1500 has filed unfair labor practice charges against Mrs. Green’s, which will be heard by the National Labor Relations Board in early April. The employees previously filed unfair labor practice charges against Mrs. Green's, which were settled in November 2013. The NLRB ordered the company to post a notice notifying employees of their rights at work, which it did.

“Mrs. Green’s Natural Market is proud of its workers and continues to invest in them – employing more full-time workers than its competitors, providing higher wages than the industry norm, giving bonuses to hourly employees, and creating promotion opportunities for our employees,” said John Collins, spokesman for Mrs. Green’s. “We provide our workers with a path to the middle class, helping them build a better future for their families here in Westchester.”

Mrs. Green’s invested $3.5 million to revamp the store and held a grand re-opening late last year, which were also part of the plan to reverse the downward trend in sales. 

Local officials, like County Legislator Peter Harckham (D – North Salem), advocated a boycott on Mrs. Green’s in February. However, Collins said they have reached out to officials to make sure they have all of the information.

“We are fully confident that when local officials have all of the facts they will understand Mrs. Green’s is the kind of small business that they can support,” he said.

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I'll add that they have overlooked one other reason shop at Mrs Green's...the people who work there! Instead of firing workers who voted for the union (although this question has not been resolved) they could have used the high quality of their human resources to their advantage, as well. I am disappointed that the new owners of Mrs Green's have taken these positions...and sorry that a valued local resource is losing its character and losing its luster as a local shopping destination for natural foods.

Sad when an owner has visions of expansion (look at Mrs Green's web site about their planned expansion all over the U.S.) and fails to grasp why customers have been visiting their store for years. Instead of throwing money at the problem by paying for ill-conceived and un-needed, expensive renovations (the renovated stores actually are less customer-friendly and less employee-friendly and make it more difficult to find what I am looking for) they should have looked at the produce, products and discounts that the previous owners had been offering, even at low margin, that attracted local customers who visited Mrs Green's instead of Trade Joe or the A&P. Since buying the chain and commoditizing many items previously made in their kitchen, Mrs Green's has been losing ground to competitors in our region, a likely source of their decline in sales.