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News :: Labor : Organizing
Harvest Co-op fired worker, a union backer
by Wobbly City
11 Mar 2008
Deon Furtick was recently fired. He had worked for four years in the deli at the Harvest.
Harvest Co-op fired worker, a union backer
by Bill Bumpus, March 2008 "Bridge"
Deon Furtick, 31, of Roxbury, and a father of three, had worked for four years in the deli at the Jamaica Plain store at 57 South St. He was fired for not punching out for a meal break on January 8th.
Furtick had never punched out for meal breaks, and had never been told this was necessary. He did not suspect his job was in jeopardy.
Harvest Manager of Operations Marc Cutler used to be Jamaica Plain store manager. There he had personally signed off on employees’ hours every week. So he would have noticed that Furtick did not punch out on his breaks.
In practice, the policy of not paying for meal breaks was inconsistent. It largely depended on the department for which the employee worked.
Other employees in similar situations are simply spoken to by a supervisor, or given a written warning. Deon Furtick was terminated without warning.
Furtick suspects that management was retaliating because he had been talking with co-workers about organizing a union with Industrial Workers of the World, (IWW, IU 460). He is not the only one.
Eight community members attended Harvest's January 29 board of directors meeting to express concern over the termination of Deon Furtick. They asked that Furtick be reinstated with back pay, that management use progressive discipline before firing employees, and that the right to organize be respected.
Since then, community members have passed out hundreds of flyers at the Co-op's locations in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain. Dozens of phone calls have been made to management. Harvest management has refused to discuss the issue.
But the Harvest Board took notice when their February 23 “retreat” was canceled by their hosts, the Paulist Fathers. An informational picket had been planned outside the Paulist Center, one block from the State House.
In announcing that the retreat was canceled, Harvest Board President Jessie Myszka wrote, “The Harvest Board would be deeply concerned about any serious allegations of union busting at the co-operative. We have no evidence that anyone is union busting at Harvest.” Matthew Andrews, an employee who is acting as an organizer for IWW, thinks the pattern is clear.
At the January 29 Board meeting, he writes, “Jessie Myszka told us that management held meetings with supervisors about what they can and cannot say to employees. This must have been in response to the unfair labor practice charge I filed in September, when my supervisor told me not to discuss a potential raise with other employees.”
In late October, Furtick and three other employees in the J.P. store approached Marc Cutler. They were concerned that Furtick had not been given an interview after applying for an open promotion to deli supervisor. Cutler refused to discuss the situation, and did not return Furtick’s subsequent phone calls to set up a meeting.
In December, Furtick requested a meeting with Sandra Andrew of Human Resources to discuss possible racial discrimination in the workplace. He was told he would have to speak with her at the Cambridge office on his own time.
As a father working two jobs, he could not travel to Cambridge immediately. Then Sandra Andrew went on vacation. A month after making his discrimination complaint, and two months after engaging in legally protected collective activity, after over four years of employment, Deon Furtick was fired.
The IWW is backing Deon Furtick, asking that Harvest return him to his job, follow fair and legal disciplinary policies, and that the Board be accountable to the concerns of co-op members.
The union is approaching community members and friends of labor to call the office of Marc Cutler, Harvest Manager of Operations, at 617-661-1580 to ask that Deon Furtick be reinstated with back pay. The union has established a website to discuss workplace, member and community concerns at harvestmembers.info
Chris Durkin, Harvest Director of Management and Community Relations, doesn’t think much of the IWW charges. “After a year and a half of aggressive recruiting practices, they have been unable to generate any interest among the Harvest associates,” he wrote us.
“The vast majority of Harvest associates feel respected, valued and well treated and want to stay here for a long time.” He refers readers to the management’s website at
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