Union uses vigil as effort to unionize Martin's

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Ukrop's has been gone for more than a year. But the company's memory is still strong enough for one group to use it as a tool in a war against their replacement.

They called the event a vigil, about a place that was so important to so many Richmonders, but quickly the "vigil" became less about Ukrop's past and all about Martin's future.

Don Gathers has a vested interest in that future.

"I actually do work at the Martin's on Forest Hill," he said.

When he came out to Carytown, he knew that it wasn't really for a vigil about Ukrop's.

"It's directly at Martin's," Gathers said.

The Union of Food and Commercial Workers sold the idea of lamenting the loss of Ukrop's with the goal of encouraging Martin's to change their ways.

"Many times the employees are belittled, and demeaned," said Gathers. "They are threatened, they are intimated."

Corporate officials from Martin's disagree. Spokesman Chris Brand called the vigil "A misleading campaign with the goal of unionizing our associates."

Something UFCW spokesperson Wendy Weiner didn't deny.

"If you feel like I come to work today and I'm treated with respect, and I have a voice on the job, that gets you a long way," she said

Remembering things like white house rolls, and not being open on Sunday were not the main agenda. The true effort was directed at getting Martin's employees help on the job. Help the company believes no one, especially consumers will benefit from.

"Being a union free chain" said Brand, "allows us to communicate directly without the interference of an outside third party."

It is perhaps the just the beginning of a prolonged battle.

"This is the proverbial calm before the storm," said Gathers.

And more evidence that this event was more about unionizing Martin's than it was remembering Ukrops, the vast majority of the people in attendance were members of the Union of Food and Commercial Workers.

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