5 Things to Know in Murrieta: Jan. 13
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#1 Jan 13, 2013
Current, former workers at Farmstead store decry unfair business practices
Current and former employees at The Farmstead Market staged a protest outside the store this week, saying the original vision of creating an old-style neighborhood market with socially responsible food standards such as locally produced, organic produce and hormone-free beef had gone awry.
“We want our store back,” employee Mary Reagan said.
A small group of current and former employees stood outside the market Thursday afternoon, handing out fliers to customers and talking to them about what they say are unfair business practices that had sapped the workers’ morale.
“Day to day, you never knew what you were walking into,” Reagan said.
The protesters later moved from the store’s parking lot on Kalmia Street to the sidewalk along Jefferson Avenue, across the street from Murrieta City Hall.
The employees contend that when David Vered was brought in to replace the original general manager shortly after the store opened in November, he began to cut workers’ hours, arbitrarily change their duties, and forbid them from holding second jobs.
Dan Sohn, who was part of the protest, said he recently was fired as the meat manager.
“He came in and just turned everything upside-down,” Sohn said,“trying to force people out the door.”
Sohn said there was no justification given for his termination.
“My department was doing great, my numbers were great, our department got along with everybody,” he said.“And he took me outside last Saturday and told me he was firing me at will.”
Vered, who was at the store Wednesday, declined to comment. On the website for The Vered Group, he is listed as the company’s president and senior consultant.
A call was placed to the store seeking comment from the owner, Rick Neugebauer, on the dispute. The unidentified employee who answered the phone said she would ask her manager.
She returned to say:“We have no comment.”
Reagan said she originally was hired as a scan coordinator, to ensure that products are priced properly, but added that she and other employees began working weeks before the market opened, putting up shelves and stocking the store.
“The employees were completely invested in this. And little by little, the cashiers were losing hours — the meat department, every department, people were dropping.”
She said that on Wednesday, the day before the protest, five people were fired.
Later on Thursday, her son, Tony Smitley said a certified letter notifying Reagan of her dismissal was delivered to the house during the protest.
Sohn said the purpose of the protest was to “let customers know the practices that have been going on.”
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