Employees at local 7-Eleven convenience stores say there isn’t enough being done to protect them on the job - particularly during overnight shifts. After multiple robberies and the sexual assault of a worker in February, workers are urging the company to make changes to staffing and security.
“They’re on shift alone on overnights. They don’t have security guards. They don’t have a proper response plan in place for when violence occurs in the store,” said Liz Smith-Rossiter, Project Director with the Western New York Worker’s Center.
Employees from the Elmwood Avenue Store in Buffalo’s Elmwood Village reached out to Smith-Rossiter for help after 7-Eleven Field Consultant Paul Wydro reportedly dismissed their requests for changes. Wydro is the supervisor for eight local stores.
Workers fear for their lives and want to see appropriate measures put into place, said Smith-Rossiter. They began an online petition of Wydro in March, calling for two employees to be staffed on all shifts, and a guard for evening and overnight hours.
Smith-Rossiter said that in a face-to-face meeting with Wydro and a 7-Eleven representative from the company’s corporate human resources office, Wydro refused to accept the petition. Smith-Rossiter said Wydro and the 7-Eleven representative were non-committal about the issue and repeatedly deferred to “corporate.” Smith said when pressed about his responsibilities, Wydro stated that “part of his job is legal compliance, and getting a budget, and creating staffing at his stores.”
Based on that description, Smith and the employees assume Wydro has the control and the power to effect changes in staffing and protect his workers.
“When you’re in a business, you have signed up for the responsibility to keep your workers safe,” said Smith-Rossiter.
After meeting with Wydro, Smith-Rossiter and the employees contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to file a formal complaint. OSHA issued a hazard alert letter to Wydro and 7-Eleven.
“[It] puts the corporation on notice that there are recognized hazards in the store and while there is no workplace violence standard for them to enforce, they recognize that there’s conditions in the store that can promote violence, and that there are steps that the corporation can take to deter that violence from occurring,” said Smith-Rossiter.
Issuing the letter is as much as OSHA can do, and Smith-Rossiter sees it as at least a preventive measure.
“We would not want to see a death, a sexual assault, or any violence happen to the workers when they have been speaking up about the conditions that they see that are creating an environment where violence can occur,” said Smith.
The employees held a rally outside the Elmwood Avenue location during this weekend’s Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts to continue the fight for their safety.
According to Smith-Rossiter, 7-Eleven employees have heard that the company has committed to putting a minimum of two employees on overnight shifts. No start date is known, and no commitment to hiring guards has been mentioned.
7-Eleven’s corporate offices were contacted by WBFO, but have not yet replied.