A David and Goliath battle of ‘he said, she said’ brought dozens of people out Sunday morning in protest.
Union members are accusing a D.C. Whole Foods Market manager of firing a long-time employee because she advocated for worker’s rights.
With protesters behind her, 51-year-old Julia Flores told WUSA9 in Spanish, “What I want is to return to my job. I need my job, I love my job, I want my job.”
Flores says worked at the P. St. Northwest Whole Foods location as a dishwasher for about 15 years before she got a call from her manager a month ago, firing her for theft.
Friends say Flores is a long-time Committee for Labor Solidarity and Worker Power member who advocated for rights on the job. She also has an ongoing workers comp claim after she allegedly sustained an injury lifting a heavy trash load in July. Flores says she may need surgery.
“When she told us that she had been fired without any notice and without any notification from whole foods, we knew that we had to stand with her and demand her reinstatement,” said an organizer, Hannah Kane.
A company Spokesperson, Brook Buchanan wrote the following to WUSA9:
“Whole Foods Market has a theft policy that was violated by the team member and resulted in her separation from the company. No other factors played a role in this decision.”
Buchanan told WUSA9 over the phone, an employee witnessed Flores putting something in her bag that she didn’t pay for. We’re told the manager reviewed this and determined a theft happened. They did not file a police report.
“I’ve never done that in 15 years,” Flores said in Spanish responding to the allegations. She says she needs the work to take care of her two daughters and father.
Not everyone at the Sunday protest knew Flores. Some came from other unions to show support.
“Employers, they just want to gather the job and don’t want to do the right thing for the employers and when they stand up for their rights, they want to terminate them and that’s the exact case of what happened here,” said Russell Hebron who identified himself as an ATU 1764 member.
The DC protest didn’t stop shoppers from going in but some did stop to listen. If it is, in fact true, one young man told WUSA9, “I’m glad that they’re drawing attention to it.”
The Whole Foods spokesperson would not tell us if there is surveillance video of the theft but did say Ms. Flores can take her appeal to hire-ups for further review if she wants.