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NLRB Issues Complaint Against Wild Oats

February, 15, 2005

The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint last week against Wild Oats Natural Foods for the firing of union organizer, Tom Kappas. The Industrial Workers of the World has been struggling to re instate Kappas for the past seven months in a campaign aimed at restoring fairness to how the company deals with union organizing. The campaign has turned out several nationwide pickets, a petition with over 500 supporters, and now a complaint from the N.L.R.B.

Kappas was fired on July, 10, 2004 for discounting less than 2 pounds of rotten produce. The produce manager gave permission to discount spoiled produce to all produce employees and then during the firing interview said he never approved discounts. The store director, Fred Meyer, then fired Tom for the discount even after Kappas produced a receipt for the produce. Meyer initiated a random bag search the night before.

The labor board decision is an excellent turning point in a campaign that escalated Wild Oats to make slanderous remarks about Kappas. Wild Oats has received many emails and phone calls made by concerned I.W.W. members and supporters.

Kappas says he will settle with the company out of court if Wild Oats provides for lost wages over the past seven months. If the company settles out of court, Kappas will not return to work to organize but, plans on using this experience to educate workers about gaining respect and fairness in the workplace.

There are still union supporters at the Cincinnati Wild Oats store and hopefully the N.L.R.B. decision will galvanize workers to act if they choose to do so. They now will know that there is recourse for Wild Oats ignoring the rights of their workers.

The I.W.W. job branch had been organizing at the store for better working conditions for over a year. Wild Oats responded to the union organizing with a vicious anti - union campaign aimed to dismantle the union before it got too strong. A small group of workers, including Kappas, still pushed for better working conditions which resulted in Kappas' firing. Over the course of the organizing workers saw an increase in the amount of grievances being remedied and received substantial pay increases and promotions. Kappas wants to thank everyone who signed the petition, made a phone call or email, attended a picket, passed out fliers, and those who gave him and his family support. This campaign it far from over, Wild Oats must remember that they are under a watchful eye from labor and social justice activists all across the United States and Canada.