Supervisor Interrogates, Denies the Right of a Witness and Suspends Employee
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A five-year employee at the McKesson (NYSE: MCK) distribution center in Duluth, Ga., was interrogated by a supervisor for more than an hour without a witness and suspended, after he dressed up as McKesson CEO John Hammergren at a company costume party.
At the party, Bo Whitener, dressed as Hammergren, told his co-workers that he makes millions of dollars a year and tens of thousands of dollars per day. He offered co-workers chocolate gold coins and said, "Take this fake money because you'll only see the real thing when we get a union contract." When managers ordered Whitener to leave the party and threatened to call the police, Whitener immediately complied, even though he was engaging in legally-protected concerted activity.
Whitener was pulled into a meeting with management the next day. Whitener repeatedly asked for a peer witness because he is a union supporter and feared retaliation. Even after Whitener explained to management that under the U.S. Supreme Court's Weingarten ruling he has a right to a peer witness at any meeting he reasonably believes could result in discipline, management still denied him a witness. For more than an hour, he was interrogated, and was suspended the next day.
"No employee should be interrogated by a supervisor without a witness, much less interrogated for more than an hour. Bo exercised his legally protected right to discuss wages with his co-workers when he dressed at CEO Hammergren, and the meeting never should have happened," said Randy Brown, President of Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta, Ga. "Not only was a high level manager clueless about an employee's basic right to a peer witness, 55 minutes into the interview he asks about Bo's family shortly after telling him that he would be disciplined for his costume. This can easily be seen as an implicit threat."
McKesson rescinded the discipline and paid Whitener's back pay only after Teamsters Local 728 filed unfair labor practice charges.
This is not the only instance of McKesson disciplining an employee for speaking out about CEO and worker compensation issues.
Glenn Gray, a 10-year McKesson distribution center employee from Lakeland, Fla., and member of Teamsters Local 79 in Tampa, Fla., was fired after he spoke at the company's annual shareholder meeting in August 2013. Gray told CEO Hammergren during the meeting, "The pay is so low at our distribution center that a majority of my co-workers cannot afford health coverage for their families or participate in the company's 401(k) plan."
Teamsters Local 79 has filed unfair labor practice charges on Gray's behalf for wrongful termination.
"It has been more than two years since McKesson distribution workers in Lakeland voted for Teamster representation, but workers still do not have a first contract. McKesson refuses to provide workers livable wages and affordable health care despite having $123 billion a year in revenues," said Randy Pines, organizer and business agent with Teamsters Local 79. "It is absurd that workers at the country's largest pharmaceutical distributor get fired for speaking up about how they cannot afford health insurance."
McKesson, ranked #14 on the Fortune 500, is the country's largest wholesale pharmaceutical distributor reporting $123 billion in total revenue for fiscal year 2012. McKesson CEO John Hammergren has received more than $500 million in total compensation, averaging about $50 million a year since 2001.
Hammergren's pension, valued at $159 million in March 2013, is believed, by consultants interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, to be the largest pension ever in corporate America. The company's pension plan was frozen for most McKesson workers after a 1999 accounting fraud scandal, but not Hammergren's pension. Hammergren is paid 943 times more than the average McKesson worker.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and "Like" us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.
SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters