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Former Employees Picket Farmstead Market, Claim Hostile Work Environment

Former employees of The Farmstead Market are entering their second week of protesting outside the store at Kalmia Street and Jefferson Avenue in Murrieta.

Former employees who helped open the new Farmstead Market in Murrieta have been picketing outside the store since last week and said Wednesday that they plan to continue.

The employees, who are not affiliated with a labor union, claim their work environment began to go downhill when a new general manager, David Vered, was hired shortly after the store opened in October 2012. They say that under the direction of Vered, the market is violating labor laws, harassing employees and maintaining a hostile work environment.

Eight protesters, including the daughter of one of the employees, held signs Wednesday afternoon on the sidewalk in front of the market at Kalmia Street and Jefferson Avenue. Some customers stopped to ask why they were picketing.

“There are just a lot of people who he (Vered) did wrong by,” said Mary Reagan, who said she was among six people terminated last week.

“The problem is the manager, not the owners. He came in and cut a lot of people’s hours—who were full time—to 10, 15, 20 a week unfairly without any notice and then wouldn’t allow anybody to have a second job,” said Reagan, who worked as the scan coordinator, making sure prices came up correctly when scanned.

Tony Smitley, who first worked as the IT administrator and then took on other positions including manager on-duty, said he was also terminated last week.

Reagan and Smitley have both received their final paychecks, but said there are others who have not and were simply told to “stay away.”

This, they claim, followed several incidents in which employees' names would be on the schedule with no hours listed next to them. There were also instances in which time cards were allegedly changed, they claim.

“It was just the inhumane way it was done,” Reagan said.

“What we would like is...we want the store back,” she said. “Everyone here helped them set up this store. Everybody here opened boxes and put shelves together and put tags on...we did everything. We want this guy gone and to get our store back.”

Vered did not respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday about the ongoing protest.

However, the president of The Farmstead Market, Craig Schleuniger, emailed the following statement to Patch:

“We are saddened by the need to write this statement today in regard to the picketing that has taken place in front of our store by prior employees,” Schleuniger wrote.

“Upon opening a new business in Murrieta a few months ago, we experienced an unforeseen loss of our general manager. In an effort to streamline our new business we were forced to lay off some staff members as well as to quickly hire a new general manager. Our new GM came with a long history of grocery store management.

“The Farmstead Market has confidence that he has the proven capability to which we are certain, will within the months to come, allow us to re-hire new staff members as our business grows. We appreciate the support from the community and look forward to being of service for many years to come.”

Holding signs calling the manager “a bully,” the former employees told Patch they will continue to protest for a few hours each day. They encouraged customers to stop shopping “at The Farmstead Market until they clean up their act.”

Some customers turned away from the store Wednesday after speaking with the former employees, while others continued on to shop.

Mr T January 18, 2013 at 09:48 AM
they did not lay off....they cut employee hours hours that were 40 to 25 hours in one week and with no notice and some had 10 hours or none ...They did so because most would quit or be fired and i might ad with no reason and would not be able to recieve unemployment benefits
elm January 19, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Sheila, do you know what is being built on that corner?
Murrieta Resident January 19, 2013 at 05:28 PM
I was very excited for this store to open and interviewed for a job. Guy doing interviews seemed arrogant and a "know it all". Did not get the job and was disappointed briefly. Appears things happen for a reason. I would not want to be part of all this drama that is apparently going on. I did walk through the store briefly the week it opened but was not impressed at all. Did not and WILL NOT spend a dime there ever. Will not be surprised when (not if) the store closes.
Scott Tucker January 20, 2013 at 01:58 AM
Hmmm, why worry about the Farmstead? If TJ's or Sprouts or Henry's wants a building how a bout the brand new, never occupied Fresh and Easy store on Nutmeg and Jackson??? I'm sure the city fathers <snicker> would love a little tax income off of that property.
Mary Johnson January 21, 2013 at 03:51 AM
That would certainly work and there would be a decent size parking lot too. I'm all for TJ's.

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