New Seasons on SE Division is always a mob scene after work, but during Tuesday rush hour it was even crazier than usual: about 30 protesters stood outside the entrance wearing bright red and white tofu buttons, a reference to the firing of activist employee Ryan Gaughan for alleged tofu theft.
Gaughan filed a compliant over his firing with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that his firing was a retaliatory move to target him after years of advocating for worker rights within New Seasons. Most recently, Gaughan says he had been pushing New Seasons CEO Lisa Sedlar at a public forum for employees to raise worker wages.
"I haven't had a raise in three and a half years," says Gaughan, who was Seven Corners' bulk guy for seven years. "The company has prioritized a rapid expansion model and the money to do that has to come from somewhere." Jobs with Justice joined yesterday's protest.
The mood behind the scenes at New Seasons is tense, says a coworker of Gaughan who was wearing a tofu pin in solidarity. "There's a lot of tension, this is a huge issue. I personally just talked to a bunch of employees who think the firing is wrong, but they're scared to even wear a button or 'like' the Facebook page," said the worker who has been a New Seasons clerk for three years. "I was surprised to hear he was fired. He's an upstanding worker, a big advocate for employees." The clerk said Gaughan has been part of a group of workers that had been meeting for months to discuss the "top-down, really aggressive management style that has heightened over the past few years."
This protest comes at a bad time for Eileen Brady, whose campaign for mayor is built largely on her experience co-founding New Seasons.
More protest photos below the cut!