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Not lovin’ it
SoVaNow.com / May 15, 2014Brian Tucker’s affection for his former employer goes way back, to the time when he was a baby and “my first two birthday parties were at the old McDonald’s where the Auto Zone [on Wilborn Avenue] is. I’ve still got the pictures of me gumming on those fries.”
This week, he learned that the local McDonald’s franchise doesn’t love him back.
Tucker is among some 17 employees who were let go abruptly on Monday at McDonald’s restaurants in Centerville, Riverdale and Clarksville. He and other fired workers say they were told they did not fit the “profile” of worker the franchise operation is looking for, an explanation that has left them wondering what the real reason for the firings is.
Alkeisha Lea said she got the bad news personally from Mike Simon, the franchise owner in New Jersey. From a telephone conversation — Lea lives in Danville; fellow employees in South Boston met with Simon in person — she said she learned that “the way he wants his company, I’m not a good fit. I don’t fit the profile. I asked him what the profile was, and he didn’t say.
“He said you do a great job. But you’re not a fit for the organization.”
She and others suggest race played a role in the mass firings. Most, though not all, of the terminated employees are African-American. Most of the workers who remain on the job at the local McDonald’s also are black. So, too, is Simon.
He denies that race played any role in the decision to terminate the employees.
“At my McDonald’s restaurants, inclusion and diversity are business imperatives,” Simon stated in a media release issued in the wake of the firings, first reported by WSET-TV on Tuesday. “I continually strive to maintain an environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted. To protect the privacy of current and past employees, I’m not at liberty to discuss issues regarding employment or termination.
“However, my organization has a strict policy of prohibiting any form of discrimination or harassment in hiring, termination or any other aspect of employment,” he continued in the release.
“As an independent franchisee, I believe in strong people practices and set my own employment policies to create and maintain exceptional service experiences for my customers.”
He declined further comment, as did the local store supervisor, Devin Snead, who referred media inquiries to Simon.
Like Simon, the ex-employees say they, too, were committed to serving the restaurants’ customers, and generally working hard in their jobs. One fired crew member at the Riverdale McDonald’s, Willie Betts, said it’s no wonder why: “We’re the highest paid [fast-food] restaurant in this town. Why do you think everybody is quitting every other restaurant in town to come work at McDonalds?”
Recently, the workers say, Simon raised the pay of everyone on the staff. Managers were bumped to $9 an hour, and those managers who were already making more than $9 had 25 cents tacked onto their hourly wages. The lowest-paid workers were raised from $7.50 to $7.75 an hour.
Each of the three McDonalds stores has about 60 employees, many who work part-time, the ousted employees said.
The recent pay raises made Monday’s firings even more perplexing to the affected employees. When he was called in Monday to be told of his fate, Tucker said he expected to hear almost the complete opposite: “I was under the impression I was being prepped for something bigger” in his role as store employee trainer. “I was really thrown back. I just slumped back.”
Katrina Stanfield, an ex-manager at the Centerville location, said she had previously been told by Simon, “’You seem like a good asset to the company. I’d hate to lose you.’ He told me that. And yet he’s getting rid of us and getting in other people.”
During her time at McDonalds, Stanfield continued, she received no warnings or reprimands, nor had she given her former employer any reason to act against her — unlike other workers who’ve disrupted the workplace but who escaped the ax Monday.
“I didn’t get my 30 days to clean up my act. I just got booted out the door,” she said.
While Simon raised employees’ pay and generally offered praise for their job performance, his local supervisors often belittled the staff and fostered a workplace rife with intimidation, favoritism and unequal treatment, allege the ex-workers. Several suggested that favoritism was the biggest factor in deciding who would stay and who would go, with Simon merely ratifying the decisions of his local oversight personnel.
Stanfield and recently-hired crew member Destiny Betts — who quit Monday once she learned of the firings — recalled a staff meeting, attended by about a half-dozen employees, in which the assistant supervisor did most of the talking. According to both women, the woman vowed that “she said she was going to get the ghetto and the rachetness out of the store,” in Betts’ description. (The online Urban Dictionary defines “rachetness” is “being extremely loud and annoying,” noting that the term is typically applied to black women.)
After making the remark, “She said, ‘Quote-unquote, I’m not a racist,’” added Stanfield.
In another incident, Betts said she was reprimanded for sitting in her car in the McDonald’s parking lot, prior to reporting for work, and listening to music — not loudly, she added. She said felt intimidated much of the time she worked at McDonalds. “The whole two months have just been ridiculous,” she said.
A white employee, Betty Lacks, would make sandwiches and a supervisor would throw them away because of her personal animosity towards the eight-year veteran, the ousted workers allege. Lacks, who confirmed the account, was among those who were let go on Monday.
Willie Betts said the local supervisors had the attitude that the crew members and shift managers had few, if any, better options for employment, and “they figured we couldn’t do anything about it. They probably figured we’d just shut up and do nothing.
“They picked the wrong bunch.”
At the same time, he acknowledged, better jobs are hard to find around the area: “For some of us who don’t have nothing else, it’s all we got.”
Most of the fired employees have already begun looking for work, and fretting about what comes next. Beyond having “mouths to feed, bills to pay,” said Willie Betts, he wonders how he’s supposed to explain to prospective future employers why he no longer works at McDonald’s: “I’ve filled out applications [since Monday]. They’ve asked me, what was the reason for your termination. And I said, ‘I honestly don’t know.’”
Alkeisha Lea said those who were let go deserve better, and so do McDonald’s customers: “Overall, the situation is sad because some of us really care about our jobs. We really cared about [preparing] good food … and we had customers who really appreciated us.”
CommentsI refuse to eat at Mcdonalds in south boston or centerville due to the actions of some of these people pictured. Wrong orders, lack or respect for customers. Constantly having to correct them. I have complained several times to managemnt and nothing has been done. Glad to see that the deadweight is being removed.
- By allpolitical2 on 05 / 15 / 14
CommentsAllpolitical2 is constantly downing and belittling many local situations and quoted below "Glad I will be out of town, the prom it has become a joke. I can;t believe that parents line up for this. You are right power, but I would call it stupidity.
- By allpolitical2 on 04 / 24 / 14
- By fellowcitizen on 05 / 15 / 14
- By What about the actions of other people on 05 / 15 / 14
CommentsJust Google his user name and see for yourself me myself have been around and have overheard some pretty harsh rumors about the former manager zena and Devin surrounding race sexual harassment and bullying but this was before the new owner honestly thought they were among the fired not all the employees were grade a but the way I've witnessed from the lobby them being treated and approached by the two above is a shame I have a feelinthere's more being covered up with these promotions and within the remaining employees out of fear I will pray for them all and their families.
- By fellowcitizen on 05 / 15 / 14
CommentsIt's always about race, it is never about the content of their character.
- By Race on 05 / 15 / 14
CommentsThe way I see it MacDonald's is a popular food place they stay busy. Yes they may make mistakes but if you think about it everywhere you go someone makes a mistake. If you have NEVER worked with the public black or white or whatever color, the public is rude as hell. Just because a person serves you your food doesn't give you the right get an attitude. Also if they messed up your food, why keep going back? That shows you're a bitter person trying to be heard. Til you yourself have to serve people their food, you're irrelevant.
- By Hazel Grace on 05 / 15 / 14
CommentsJust because its a black owner doesn't mean he can't be racist against his own kind. Rumor has it they want to "white it up" anyway. I guess we will see in a couple months.
- By Jackson Wallace on 05 / 15 / 14
CommentsI just want to say that I really like the Riverdale location. The employees are friendly and efficient, my fries are hot just as I requested, and I always get a smile. Yes, I always check my order before I leave. These folks are great, but they make mistakes just like I do.
- By Bunny Propst on 05 / 15 / 14
CommentsWhy does it always come down to race. Why can't it possibly be about someone maybe not doing their job and finally being held accountable for it. Why can't the owner make a decision to change who works for him without it being centered around race. Is the person who posted "white it up" racist because if some one posted "black it up" there would be a zillion responses. I see at least 2 white people that were let go. Is the fact they are white the problem? Maybe being let go is a chance to do better somewhere else. Quit using the same old "they didn't like me because I'm _____" retort (you fill in the blank). Maybe their reason is really a reason and not racism. Maybe they got tired of your attitude, lack of respect, showing up late, or not showing up at all. Who knows. I'm sick and tired of hearing that every situation that is not pleasant is because of someone's race. Just for once leave race out of it and look to yourself to figure out why you were really let go.
- By Lisa Seamans on 05 / 16 / 14
CommentsTruth is whether people want to admit it or not, race will ALWAYS be an issue and Lisa Seamans, I'm far from being a racist. Just like you I have a right to express my opinion...make you feel any better I'm a white male married to a black female.
- By Jackson Wallace on 05 / 16 / 14
CommentsHeck if I was black Id play the race card at any given chance too, it is like a get out of jail free card/get some free money/get a job over more qualified applicant to meet the minority quota/etc.
I have had problems with the white and black women shown in this photo, between rude behavior towards me, disinterest, unwillingness to end conversations with other employees just because a customer is around, dropping N-bombs and other curse words despite our presence. I've always had pleasant experiences with the guys shown always talk to me and seem really personable. I hope they catch on somewhere better than McDonalds and turn this ordeal into a blessing. To the other women, they probably will strike out at any other job they undeservingly get. I do not need to kick any more dirt on them.
- By Cory on 05 / 17 / 14
CommentsFellow you seem to jump on me all the time, if you have ever traveled out of Halifax, you would see why I say the things I do, we do alot of stupid stuff. I for one don't like seeing my county as a laughing stock or the butt of jokes when I travel. When you see stuff like people arriving in a front end loader for a prom, it makes you think. When the front page of the paper runs a story about people getting fired, friend of mind in NOVA can't believe that is news.
- By allpolitical2 on 05 / 19 / 14
CommentsThe group shot of the fired employees looks like a lineup at the police station. I'd hate to turn a corner and come face to face with THAT motley looking crew. I can see where most of them don't fit the image that any employer would want for his/her business.
- By Jim on 05 / 22 / 14
- By Jackson Wallace on 05 / 22 / 14
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