Shaquana Battle is a Martin’s employee, who works in Richmond, VA. This is her story inspiring her coworkers that together we can make a difference in our workplaces, in our lives, and in our communities. www.iholdcampaign.org
My name is Shaquana Battle and I’m a Martin’s worker from Richmond, Virginia. I have been on a passionate journey fighting for my rights at work. Before Ukrop’s was bought, I went to work with a smile on my face. I felt more involved and appreciated. It was like a family and I was proud to work there. Since Martin’s took over a year ago, I don’t smile anymore. Now, it’s just a job.
I have rallied and handed out fliers outside Martin’s stores, talked to my co-workers, and have done several interviews with the press expressing my passion.
In April, I had the opportunity to go to Amsterdam for the Ahold shareholder meeting. Ahold is the company that owns Martin’s stores along with several other stores, both union and non-union.
Before the meeting I met with other Ahold workers from the Netherlands as we set up the royal event for the shareholders. It was a great experience to have the support of other workers there.
At the meeting, I was able to ask a few pressing questions to the Ahold board, which included CEO Dick Boer.
Shaquana Battle at the microphone: “The reason why i’m here today at the Ahold shareholder meeting is because Ahold does not uphold their royal pledge. Question: is it true in the royal pledge that you say that you, as a company, will ensure that all workers are able to form a union and join a trade of one of their choice without fear of intimidation?”
Dick Boer: “Let’s be clear, we respect the freedom of association and you know how the rules are to form as association in the U.S.?”
Shaquana Battle: “Yes”
Dick Boer: (shrugs)
Shaquana Battle: “That leads me to my next question. I understand how everything works, but it’s more complicated. At Giant of Martin’s, union organizers are not allowed inside the stores to help us to organize the union and being that it’s in the pledge of the company that you are interfering that, I was wondering then why in my company are they having anti-union meetings?”
Dick Boer: “I couldn’t follow your question clearly, but again we abide by the law in allowing employees to form a union or an association. So, whatever you want to do, and I think there are rules, clearly rules, rules in the U.S. you can apply and that’s what we respect.”
When confronting the board, I held a more powerful position as a worker because afterall Ahold stated we are the key to their success.
I left the meeting proud and accomplished because my question was answered, even though, the board didn’t show interest in the problem I addressed to them. After, I had the opportunity to actually meet and shake hands with members of the board. I wasn’t intimidated or scared I was excited because I was heard.
We have support from our brothers and sisters from Giant of Landover, which has stores right up the road in Northern Virginia. Two Giant workers came with me to Amsterdam to share their stories and to fight for Ahold to treat all of their workers equally and fairly.
Waqas Ahmad (Giant-Landover employee): “I believe just like you said they have the right. But the company is scaring people. They have anti-union meetings inside the store and they’re telling people that if you talk to the union, you’re going to get fired.”
Chairman Dahan: “We will make sure that the company does thing lawfully, and I’ve told you to the best of our opinion, the company conducts itself lawfully. Now your time is up, next speaker.
Waqas Ahmad: “I want to know if I can go inside Martin’s and talk to my brothers and sisters. Would that be possible as a Giant worker?
I came to Amsterdam so that all my coworkers back home know that we can do it. Join Me! I believe that together we have the power to build a better future for ourselves, our families and our communities.
Visit www.iholdcampaign.org to get involved.
Thank you for watching.