UNITE volunteers protest local Fred's store

Published 7:32 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2002

By By James Crawford
News Editor
UNITE volunteers handed out information sheets on Saturday at Fred's Store on Lindberg Avenue as part of UNITE's "Don't Shop at Fred's" campaign.
The campaign, also reportedly conducted at other Fred's locations in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi, according to a press release from UNITE, is in part to support the 450 employees at the Fred's Memphis distribution center who are attempting to organize a union to address working conditions and other discriminative factors.
UNITE, the Union of Needlettades, Industrial and Textile Employees, won the election to represent the Fred's distribution center employees. UNITE has more than 250,000 members throughout the United States and Canada and represents 30,000 distribution center employees.
The Ecumenical Task Force in Memphis declared a holiday boycott of Fred's stores in November and had planned for Saturday's protest to expand the holiday boycott to Fred's stores across the discounts chain's market area.
The local Fred's store was unaffected by the pamphlets or the strike and conducted business as usual on Saturday with no plans to address the issue.
"I didn't know anything about it until I got here," Store Manager Charlie German said. "I think it was three guys here about five minutes." According to German, the protesters didn't disrupt customers and he hasn't had any complaints or comments from anyone concerning the boycott.
The Fred's distribution center employees voted overwhelmingly for a union in May. According to UNITE, more than a dozen union supporters have been illegally fired since that vote and scores of others have faced harassment, unjust discipline, and discrimination.
UNITE spokesperson Kelly Knochel said in a phone interview Friday that Fred's store has "done lots of stuff to try and muscle people out and in response a lot of religious leaders have gotten involved and are trying to help the workers get what they deserve."
The Ecumenical Task Force, formed in response to the mistreatment of workers at the Fred's distribution center, is comprised of the Baptist Ministerial Alliance, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Ministerial Alliance, and the African-American Pastors Consortium.