Fired Workers Protest Outside FreshDirect Warehouse

By Maruxa Relaņo Tennent, Daily News Writer
September 27, 2007

Union food workers rallied yesterday behind two former FreshDirect employees who claim they were fired for trying to unionize the company's workers.

Loreto Gomez, 56, and Lonnie Powell, 49, protested in front of the Internet supermarket's Long Island City warehouse charging that FreshDirect is using scare tactics to deter the workers from organizing.

"I had complained about the long shifts and the lack of security, but it was when I came out in support of (a union) that they decided to terminate me," said Gomez, who worked the night shift scanning products for a little more than $8 an hour.

Teamsters Local 805, which is leading the organizing move, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board asking for an investigation into whether the company broke labor laws by firing the workers.

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens), who attended the rally, said she would ask the state Labor Commission to investigate the company's practices.

FreshDirect, which employs about 900 people at the warehouse, says the firings were unrelated to the workers' union support.

The company claims that Gomez was dismissed for being drunk on the job and Powell was terminated for repeated absences.

Jim Moore, vice president for human resources for FreshDirect, denied the company was intimidating workers.

"If they want to unionize, the company respects the decision of its employees."