Monday, November 19, 2012

Boycotting Jewel-Osco ~ In defense of Handicapped people

I've been a customer of Jewel-Osco for many years, but now I feel I should not be wasting my time there.

Two years ago, their Munster, Indiana branch hired in a bunch of workers, who happened to be handicapped. They were all told up front that they were needed for customer service, and that answering phones would be all that they would do.

They lied. Not a single handicapped person works in customer service. Instead, a very absent-minded woman does, and seemingly it's also her job to greet me with disdain.

On many occasions, I would pop into the store and see a worker there named Jeff. Jeff has Cerebral Palsy, and has virtually no use of his right side. He can kind of move his toes and two fingers, and that's it. So he walks with a slump.

They would make Jeff lift the heavy boxes, push the giant carts, move the pallets, all while the other workers would just stand there, calling Jeff "lazy" because he couldn't move very fast.

One time, I needed a box of Velveeta, but it was on the highest shelf. I asked an employee who was 6'2 if he could help me reach for it.

He declined.

Instead of reaching up and grabbing the box, he told Jeff to go get it.

Jeff is 5'2.

Jeff asked for a ladder.

Not only did this guy laugh at him, but another worker made fun of him for being (as she puts it) "too needy". 

After scolding them for making fun of Jeff, and being told what a "bitch" I am for defending him, I smiled to Jeff. "Don't worry. I'll get it."

Like Spider-Man, I climbed up on the selves. Nobody tried to stop me, despite the fact that this thing was wobbling. I reached up and got the box.

It was dusty, and had expired over a year earlier.

Mind you, this was a store in a richer part of town, one that prides itself on being clean. And yet not only could these people be bothered to do their jobs and help a customer, they left expired goods right out in the open. Disgusting!

Jeff, the two people they hired with Down Syndrome and a few more CP patients were treated very poorly by these other people. The other workers are between 35-50 years old. You'd think they'd act better than a bunch of school bullies. They don't!

All of the handicapped people they hired were in charge of bagging the groceries, getting the carts in the parking lot and lifting more than their own body weight. A month ago, I caught a woman with DS pulling a pallet of tomato cans much too heavy for her. There wasn't another able-bodied person for miles.

But two days ago, Mama needed to pick up a few things for dinner. My mom is handicapped, so she can't lift very much on her own. So I went along to help. Our current state is still dragging their feet about letting she and my brother (who does qualify as disabled due to his JRA) get onto disability, despite the fact that we've had more than two doctors declare them as such. And considering the teasing my mom has had to deal with due to her injury, I get the impression that her placard is going to look alot like this:
Upon entering the building, I realized that a few faces were missing. In their place were a bunch of lazy, older people, dragging their feet and being regular annoyances.

When we were done shopping, I noticed that Jeff and the other handicapped people were missing

In their place was a young boy and an elderly woman, doing a half-assed job of bagging. I asked where the usual baggers were.

"Oh, we fired THOSE people. They just couldn't keep up." Chuckles a woman, old enough to be my grandmother. "We really HAD TO downsize, it's nice to do for charity, but it's sooo expensive."

"REALLY BITCH??" I blurted out, very much ready to open a can of whoop-WOW you security people are pretty quick these days. Alright guys... OKAY alright I'm LEAVING!! Sheesh.

On exit, I noticed the ice cold Salvation Army man, ringing the Christmas bell and asking for pennies.

Christmas. Jewel-Osco just en mass FIRED a ton of handicapped people, right before the holidays.

All of them were making minimum wage, which for them is $7.25 an hour. That means their take home pay after taxes is between $10-13,000 per year. This by them is "sooo expensive"?? 

On $7.25 an hour, you can't afford diddly squat, and now they're not making anything at all. And with days before Thanksgiving. And yes, some of them have kids. What the hell? Of course, I shouldn't expect much from a company that turned me down, because they wanted me to have a bachelor's degree to (I'm not kidding) prove that I could bag corn, but this is insanity.

Calls to Jewel's many offices turned up nothing. All I was told was that they were "deeply concerned" that I wasn't satisfied with my shopping experience, but they showed zero compassion when I told them a branch of the SuperValu Jewel empire just sent packing the very people who needed a job the most.

As it turns out though, this isn't the first time. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last year that Jewel had settled a disability discrimination lawsuit for $3.2 million, for doing exactly the very same thing at 23 other Jewel locations. 

Now I don't know about you, but if my company had just dropped 3.2 MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS settling a wrongful termination suit, I'd want to quit firing people based on disability, wouldn't you?! 

But further searching shows me that they have a long history of dropping the handicapped from employment, and an even longer one of workplace harassment. Good grief! I suddenly feel pretty grand that they never hired me. It's a fireable offence to grab a workplace bully and chuck them into traffic after all.

So I've decided I'm not shopping there again. I don't need to schlep home bags of expired foods that badly. And I encourage you all to do the same.

UPDATE: Well it looks like I'm not alone. Jewel's lost quite a bit of funding this quarter. Unfortunately, they're about to layoff another 700 people, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Guess how many are disabled? Parent company SuperValu is looking to sell the company off.

1 comment:

  1. I think this behavior when running a business is just bred from stupidity and arrogance. Like when Knicks owner James Dolan was found liable for 10 million after Isiah Thomas sexually harassed that woman, causing her to be fired wrongfully. Yet despite the fact that he was out 10 million bucks out of his own pocket and that Isiah destroyed the Knicks almost beyond repair as GM, Dolan was all set to bring him back until the NBA said no.

    There is a special place in hell for those who belittle the handicapped to their faces. Also for firing them due to their handicap.

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