Workers at 7-Eleven recently won safer conditions at local stores. After increasing pressure on the corporation, one Elmwood Avenue store in Buffalo will have two or more staff working every overnight shift. Prior to the change, workers were forced to work the overnight shift alone. “What that did is open up a lot of opportunity for us to get harassed,” said Lee Swaydis. “There have been multiple threats to our lives.”
After a series of armed robberies and racial threats against employees, several workers approached the WNY Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH) for help. They raised concerns about the lack of security guard and staffing a sole employee on evening and overnight shifts.
Several employees filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, hoping for change from the regulatory authority. However, in February, a young woman working alone on the overnight shift was robbed and sexually assaulted. There was no guard on to protect against the sexual assault and, although the police caught the perpetrator, the woman found it impossible to return to her job.
The workers created a community petition which over 2,000 residents and customers of their store signed, which called on 7-Eleven to staff a security guard and two people on overnight shift. They also met with the 7-11 management asking for increased staffing at the stores, led direct actions and community speak-outs about their working conditions.
OSHA issued a Hazard Alert Letter to the international corporation recommending measures to prevent the workplace violence that regularly occurs in their stores.
“No one should go to work and fear for their lives,” said Liz Smith-Rossiter, Project Director for the Worker Center at WNYCOSH. “The tenacity of these workers to come forward and demand that their safety on the job be taken seriously is what led to this victory.”
“Workers historically have fought and died for the right to a safe workplace and organized labor in WNY proudly stands with all workers demanding to be treated with dignity and respect at work,” said Richard Lipsitz, President, WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.