DLY murphy kroger

(Content Warning: bullying, harassment, suicide.)

In September 2021, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez spoke with the family of Evan Seyfried about a lawsuit they filed against grocery giant Kroger, which alleges that Evan was bullied, harassed, and sabotaged by store managers Shannon Frazee and Joseph Pigg to the point that he suffered a “transient episodic break” and took his own life. It’s been one year since Evan committed suicide, and while the Seyfrieds struggle to pick up the pieces, family friends, community members, and volunteers have come together to honor Evan’s life, demand accountability for his death, and address the scourge of workplace bullying. In this interview, Alvarez speaks with Jana Murphy, an organizer of the Justice for Evan coalition and a close friend of the Seyfried family, about the fight to hold Kroger accountable and the national day of action planned for Wednesday, March 9.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you care about has contemplated suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Crisis counselors are available 24 hours a day. The International Association for Suicide Prevention also provides contact information for crisis centers around the world.

Pre-Production/Studio/Post-Production: Cameron Granadino


Transcript

Maximillian Alvarez:    Welcome, everyone, to The Real News Network. My name is Maximillian Alvarez. I’m the editor-in-chief here at The Real News, and it’s so great to have you all with us. As anyone who knew him can attest, Evan Seyfried was a loving son, brother, and friend, and a dedicated worker. For 19 years, with a virtually spotless record, Evan worked at a local Kroger Grocery Store in Milford, Ohio, where he eventually became the dairy department manager. From October 2020 to March 2021, however, Evan suffered a torturous litany of bullying, harassment, and sabotage, according to a lawsuit filed by the Seyfried family. As the lawsuit alleges, it was this treatment which was the result of a “conspiracy” involving numerous actors including management-level supervisor Shannon Frazee and Joseph Pigg at the Milford store that caused Evan to eventually suffer a transient episodic break and take his own life.

I want to give a warning at the top of this recording that in our discussion today we will be addressing the topics of suicide and workplace bullying. To make sure viewers and listeners have a firm understanding of this case, I’m going to read some passages from a Washington Post article written by Julian Mark which was published on July 15, 2021.

As Mark describes, “In the early hours of March 9, Ken Seyfried found his 40-year-old son, Evan, dead in his childhood room at their Loveland, Ohio, home. Evan had taken his own life. In a lawsuit filed [in July] in Hamilton County Court, Evan Seyfried’s family members alleged his workplace, a Kroger Grocery Store in Milford, Ohio, is responsible for his suicide – A ‘wrongful death’ that was the result of an alleged six-month harassment campaign by two of his coworkers. The lawsuit alleges the coworkers sabotaged Seyfried at work, had people stalk him outside of his home, and threatened to frame him for possessing child pornography. Despite Evan Seyfried’s attempts to alert Kroger management of the alleged abuses, the company did not help him, the lawsuit alleges. The family is suing for monetary damages.

“’Evan was dedicated to his career with Kroger,’ the lawsuit said of the 19-year employee. ‘In return, Kroger intentionally subjected Evan to torturous conditions that were directly responsible for his death.’ Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard told The Post that the company was unable to comment on the pending litigation. She said the company is, ‘Offering counseling services to our associates at the Milford, Ohio, location’ after Seyfried’s death.

“After graduating from high school, Seyfried got a job at Kroger in nearby Milford and eventually became the dairy department manager. He stayed 19 years, quitting only days before his death. His parents, Ken and Linda, and his brother Eric describe Seyfried as a sensitive and empathetic person who liked to read and cared deeply about justice and social causes.”

Now, back in September for my podcast Working People, which is partnered with The Real News and In these Times magazine, I spoke with Evan’s mother Linda, his father Ken, and his brother Eric about the beautiful person he was, the horrific treatment that he endured, and the need to hold those who wronged him accountable. Now, you can listen to the full episode on The Real News Podcast feed. And if you are able to, I encourage you to do so and help spread word, but we’re going to play a short clip from that interview for you right now.

[AUDIO CLIP BEGINS]

Ken Seyfried:        McMullen, the CEO and his Management Team, did not create a safe working environment. They conspired with my son to create a hostile environment that was focused on terrorizing him. It was the exact opposite of what their responsibility as a management team in any company is. They created an environment that targeted him and they terrorized him. I often refer to his store manager Shannon Frazee as a person that had a toolbox of terror. And I’m going to talk about that for a minute. Because I want to make real clear with you that this is not a lawsuit based on conservative versus liberal or Republican versus Democrat. This is a whistleblower lawsuit.

The reason they terrorized my son and they wanted him out of the company is because he would not accept a hostile working environment. Every time they got hostile with them or a coworker, he would throw up the red flag. He would go to the union, he would go to HR, he would go to line management, he would go outside the store if he could to get attention with the red flags. And they saw that as a problem, all the way from the store manager to the district manager, they had a person throwing up too many red flags and they wanted him gone.

[AUDIO CLIP ENDS]

Maximillian Alvarez:    For the Seyfried family, nothing can ever replace the loss of their son Evan. And I want to take this opportunity to send them our love and solidarity and to thank them once again for sharing their stories with me so openly and bravely even though it was clearly incredibly painful to do so.

While the Seyfried fight to pick up the pieces and while their lawsuit against Kroger is moving through the courts, a group of volunteers and community members have come together to honor Evan’s life, to hold Kroger accountable for his death, and to fight the scourge of workplace bullying which affects millions of workers around the US and beyond. The Justice for Evan Coalition will be holding a day of action on March 9, 2022, one year after Evan took his own life. With demonstrations planned in multiple states at state Houses around the country.

To talk about this day of action, and about the community efforts to support the Seyfrieds, and to seek justice for Evan, I’m honored to be joined today by Jana Murphy, who is an organizer of the Justice for Evan Coalition and a close friend of the Seyfried family. Jana, thank you so much for joining me today.

Jana Murphy:             Max, thank you so much for having me, and thank you so much for what you’re doing for all the working people.

Maximillian Alvarez:    Well, thank you. I really appreciate that. And it’s an honor to be talking to you today, and I think it’s a really important follow up to that episode that I had the privilege and honor of doing with Evan’s family back in September. We have had Real News viewers and listeners and Working People listeners ask us for developments as they come. And we know that the case in the courts is moving, often slowly as these things often do. And I thought it was really important to sort of highlight that community response that you have been involved in at the ground level. And so I guess to start off, I wanted to ask if you are comfortable to tell us more about your own involvement here. How you got kind of involved in organizing Justice for Evan, your connection to the family, and why fighting for justice for Evan Seyfried has been so important to you.

Jana Murphy:         Absolutely Max. This week last year, Ken and Linda and Eric had no idea, not even an inkling of a thought in their mind that Evan wouldn’t be a part of their lives forever. I’m a close friend of the Seyfried family. I had spoken with Eric the day of his brother’s death. Everything was fine, normal. We were living our lives. When I woke up on the morning of the 9th and had multiple voicemails from Eric I could have never possibly imagined ever what that message was going to say to me. When he told me that Evan had taken his life it was complete and sheer shock.

He was on his way from Oregon to come and be with his parents, and he was in shock. And when he arrived, and we cried and screamed on the phone, we could not imagine why he had taken his life. He was living a beautiful life. He was really at the peak of his life. He was in love for the first time. He had a wonderful relationship with his girlfriend. He had a healthy, wonderful relationship with his parents. He was a homeowner in the community. He was living the life that he had worked for. He was a very intentional person. He didn’t create anything in his life for there to be ill-will come against him. And he was thriving. That’s where we were with his life. We knew that there had been some issues with his manager. But as any healthy 40-year-old man, they’re going to talk about the problems at work. But he cared for his parents. He was a caregiver of his parents and of everyone that he loved in his life. He would never want to burden anyone with any problems. And that’s what we found with so many victims of this exact pattern.

There’s an exact pattern of [bullycide], and anyone who reads the 30-page lawsuit against Kroger… It’s undeniable what happened to Evan. Anyone who reads the lawsuit that happened to Evan knows exactly that this happened. Any Kroger employee who reads, any corporate employee who reads this lawsuit, we hear from them. I get many messages from Kroger corporate employees saying, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that this happened. They know it happened. We haven’t had one person come forward and say, no, we don’t think that this happened. This is too egregious. This is too outrageous. How could this ever happen? Anyone who learns what happened, it’s undeniable what happened to him. Kroger is 100% guilty of driving him to his death. And the managers that you mentioned in the case are 100% responsible for driving a healthy 40-year-old thriving man to drive to an episodic break and slice his throat at his parents’ home.

Ken Seyfried found Evan, and imagine the suffering that Ken Seyfried, who had no idea that his son was suffering so much. They talked about the problems that he was having at work. Ken Seyfried was a human resource director for Ford. This family, they’re all extremely intelligent, hardworking, highly educated people, and they all talked a lot about what was right and wrong in the world. Evan didn’t bring it to Ken as a dire, desperate situation. He consulted with his father. He consulted with his father upon the first time that he’d met Shannon Frazee. He was having a very positive experience with Kroger until Rodney McMullen became the CEO of Kroger in 2014. Evan always kept himself educated on all world news. And he kept himself vested in education on the company that he worked for and that he dedicated his loyalty and his life to. He dedicated his life to his job at Kroger, as anyone who really does a good job in their job, that’s what they do.

Evan did his best at everything in his life. He took care of his home in the very best way that he could. He took care of his parents in the very best way that he could. He took care of his girlfriend in the very best way that he could, and himself. He was a very healthy eater. Every day he thought about what he wanted to eat. He went to the store. After 2014 he stopped shopping at Kroger. He didn’t like where the company was going at all. He kept himself informed on exactly what was going on on the corporate level financially. Kroger received a $20 million tax incentive from the State of Ohio in the year of 2016. That’s not an accident that Rodney McMullen became the CEO of Kroger two years prior to that, increased his pay within one year from $12 million to $20 million.

That’s no accident at all. It’s no accident at all that his frontline workers, instead of receiving the pandemic pay that they were supposed to, he put that money into his shareholders’ pocket. Evan was fully aware of what was happening at the company. He talked with his father about this. He talked with his father when Shannon Frazee walked up to him for the first time meeting him and said, I’ve had a bad day. Today’s not the day to talk to me. That was his first interaction with Shannon Frazee. He went to his dad and he said, I met my new boss today, and this is how it happened. How would you advise me to handle this? And his dad said, just continue to do a good job, and just continue doing what you’re doing. Keep your head low. If anything happens make sure that you report as protocol and continue doing exactly what you’re doing. He was an extremely ethical and right person.

And that brings me to answering… I could go on and on and on about how wonderful of a person that Evan was. This week has been extremely, extremely difficult for the Seyfried family. It’s been very difficult for me personally. It’s been extremely painful. The memories from this time this week, last year, this week last year, I took a week off of work. I could not get over the devastating loss of Evan and knowing that he wasn’t going to be here any longer. We all knew how Evan was living his life and how right of life that he was. We all wanted to be more like Evan. He was an influential person on how to be good in the world. He was a wonderful example on how human beings should be living their life. There’s nothing that Evan was doing in his life that any of us ever thought, he shouldn’t be living that way. Evan was an exemplary human being. He was just an exemplary person.

And it is so unbelievable and amazing how many wonderful people have come forward to help Evan and to help us with our cause. But it’s not a surprise. You can’t not help someone like the Seyfried family. And they’re such good people. Their first thought wasn’t, oh God, what did Kroger do? It was, what happened here? Why would this happen? Why would this happen? It was sheer shock.

The episodic break that he suffered shortly before he took his life, he quit Kroger. He failed the audit because it was sabotaged by Shannon Frazee. He quit. He was sent child pornography to his phone. He took his phone to his father and said to his father, we need to take my phone to an attorney. And they were taking his phone to an attorney. He stepped out of the car. He had an episodic break. They took him home and consulted with Eric. Nothing like this has ever happened before. We were thinking about taking him to the emergency room, maybe he should just get some rest. It all just happened so fast.

And they weren’t anticipating anything like this. They weren’t expecting this. They weren’t prepared for this. He was the one taking care of them. He was the one bringing groceries over to his parents’ house on Sunday evening so that they could make dinner together. He was the one being so supportive. He was the glue of their family. And then for this to be happening to him, it was very extremely overwhelming. And they thought, well, we’ll have him rest today. If he’s still having issues tomorrow we’ll take him tomorrow. We’ll just work through this. They weren’t expecting it. They’d never had to deal with mental health in Evan. And he laid down, and they could never expect that he would’ve killed himself.

And that week, just two days after when his coworkers found out what had happened, they knew exactly why he killed himself. And they contacted the Seyfried family and said, he was murdered. We saw what happened to him. They said, what are you talking about? They said, we have to meet with you. We have to tell you what happened to Evan. And these aren’t dramatic people who were working with him who caused any trouble. These are sweet, introverted people who would never even speak out on something unless they knew that something horrific had happened. And they knew something. They saw what had happened to him. They did not want to be the next target. Evan was the whistleblower. He was the one sticking up for them. He was the one who was doing the reporting. He was the one who was helping them.

And when he died, those brave employees came forward to the Seyfried family and said, we have to tell you what happened to him. You have to know the truth. He didn’t just suffer needlessly. He suffered because someone was torturing him. He was literally being tortured at work. He was being tortured at work.

And the family felt so horrible that they did not know how awful the things were. That the guilt that they are suffering from not knowing what was going on with his work. And it was horrible. But as we know, people don’t talk. They don’t. They don’t talk. And when those brave employees came and told the Seyfrieds, the Seyfrieds knew that they had to press a lawsuit against Kroger so that this could never happen again and so that Evan’s voice could continue to be heard. Because he stood up for employees. He did every single thing that he was supposed to do. He came forward to Union 75 and they completely ignored him because they’re working for Kroger and not for their employees here in Cincinnati. And he came forward to who he was supposed to report to at Kroger. And that report was never filed. It was never filed. His reports were never filed. He was never heard.

And after the Seyfrieds filed their lawsuit, they actually really believed that Kroger would do the right thing. They did. I mean, I’ve had personal conversations with them at that time. We were talking about it constantly. And they were like, oh, I mean, he was just the best employee. We know that they’ll fire Shannon and Joseph and get to the bottom of this. And they’ll come forward and they’ll make… That’s all we want. We want an apology. We want an apology that they hired these two horrible managers who drove our son to their death. We want them to say, okay, whatever hiring practices that, however it was that these two managers got into those positions of power, we want to make sure that those hiring practices come to an end, and we want them to be held accountable for his death. And they really believed. ‘Cause they believe in the right things in the world.

So they believed that other people do the right things. And let me tell you, Kroger has killed these people and the way that they feel that people will actually stand up in the world and do the right thing. This company who employs more workers than any company in the United States. And they’re in 35 states. And the fact that their hiring practices and their toxic culture is so egregious is so disheartening for our country. I mean, this is our largest employer in the country. Rodney McMullen is the head of it. And the fact that he hasn’t come forward and spoken about the largest lawsuit that his company has ever been pressed against with a person who worked for him, and put money in his pocket and his shareholders’ pocket for the bulk of his life, for 19 years, almost, just shy of 20 years of his life. And this happened, I mean, we as a human species should be ashamed that we are living in this state of this nation with this company.

We should all, every single consumer, every single person to be holding this company accountable. And anybody who hears of the Seyfried story, please, I beg of you, don’t shop at this company. Let it be well known that you’re going to spend your money at good companies. There are plenty of great companies. They are all not like this. And that’s been a huge thing that we’ve found, is so many people are like, well, all companies are like this. No, they’re not. Costco is not like this, Trader Joe’s is not like this, Meijer is not like this.

I have a personal story that, at some point in time when Ken Seyfried feels comfortable with me sharing it, a beautiful story that happened with employees at Meijer and the Seyfried family. And as the organizer of Justice for Evan, also, these companies are embracing us. Trader Joe’s employees are wearing Justice for Evan buttons. I got thrown out of a Kroger store for handing Justice for Evan buttons out at a Kroger store. And then when I contacted the union, they said, if that happens again we’re going to frown upon it. That is a bunch of bullcrap. We are not going to tolerate that. That is absolutely wrong. Anybody who thinks that we’re going to roll over and let this happen to employees? They’re nuts. They’re absolutely crazy.

They had their deadline that they were going to reply to the lawsuit. And a side note, one of the dire things that I’ve learned during this process has been that our legal system protects companies so much more than they protect these innocent employees. They are protecting Kroger more than they’re protecting the Seyfried family. And the media, even things that they know what’s going on in the courtroom. They don’t get anything. They learn what the outcome of hearings are, but they don’t actually learn how horrible that a defensive side can actually be. And what they’re allowed to actually get away with, and how they’re still protected by their privacy rights.

And they can get away with doing horrible, awful things that nobody ever even hears about because they’re protected. And that is bull crap. These laws have got to change. And that is a huge step in our call to action that we’re having on March 9, is to pass the Dignity at Work Act. It’s illegal to harass people. It’s illegal already to harass employees at work. But there are so many different ways to get around those legalities. And these companies know that. They know that they can get around it. Evan was a white 40-year-old man. And he is, in people’s eyes, the lowest person on the totem pole of harassment. He’s going to be the very last person who’s ever going to be harassed. So to Shannon Frazee and Joseph Pigg, he’s a perfect target.

He’s a white, 40-year-old, fantastic person. And he was exactly the perfect victim for them to go after. And he was the whistleblower that was not going to allow them to get away with what they were doing. And – I know I’m going all over the place. But there’s a whole lot to say about this.

When Kroger didn’t come back and say that they held any responsibility at all, they were completely silent. They didn’t make any public statement. They made no statement to the Seyfried family except for the slap in the face of, hey, instead of firing Joseph Pigg, this sexual harasser at Kroger, who threatened Evan with his life. Literally said to Evan, I’m going to make your life a living hell. I’ve been accused and reported for sexually harassing before. I will be accused in the future and I won’t be touched. Nothing’s going to happen to me. And now I’m going to make your life a living hell. Joseph Pigg had been reported for sexually harassing female employees. Nothing was done when those employees reported it. Those employees came to Evan and said, please help us. You are higher level than we are, and we need your help. He reported Joseph Pigg. Joseph Pigg was transferred to another store instead of fired. When he came back to the store, he cornered Evan and threatened him, telling him he was going to make his life a living hell.

Also, the fact that Evan was following all the CDC guidelines and Kroger’s guidelines for wearing a mask, he was picked on, harassed for following the rules. He was abused for following the rules. Shannon Frazee and Joseph Pigg did not follow CDC guidelines nor the guidelines that Kroger had in place. They were not following any of the rules. And so they were torturing a person who was a rule follower. Who wasn’t going to let them get away with their abusive ways. And now Joseph Pigg is a store manager at Goshen. So they split up the two, but they’re keeping them both of these monsters in place to further set an example on how Kroger hires and keeps on staff abusers.

So when Kroger didn’t come forward and make any public account or any statement to… They didn’t even address the lawsuit. To Kroger, they saw this just as another, hey, a customer came in and they stumped their toe. And so we’re going to give you $10 and say, I’m sorry. Because they actually have it in their… Which we’ve learned. Kroger has a protocol. Every single one of their lawsuits, since Rodney McMullen came into power in 2014, there’ve been so many lawsuits against Kroger that they actually had to revamp their handbook on how to handle lawsuits against them. So in their handbook, it’s standard, no matter if they’re being sued because of a sexual harassment lawsuit, or a customer comes in and slips and falls, or they have a death of an employee because he’s killed himself because he’s been abused for six months by a manager who was fired from Target for harassing employees, they handle it all exactly the same way. It’s unbelievable. It’s been absolutely unbelievable, the things that we learned about Kroger.

So when they didn’t come forward and make an apology nor a statement to the Seyfried family, that they had another amount of time, legally, that they could come back. So they’re torturing this family. Torturing this family, from spring of last year to July. Torturing this family. I mean, literally, this was absolutely sheer abuse that they were doing to the Seyfried family.

So we still believed that they would do the right thing. Because we’re all optimists, some positive thinkers, or at least they used to be. We still believed that Kroger was going to come forward. That they were just finding their way to say it or how they were going to go about it. But we actually really believed when it came right down to it that they were going to come forward and make a statement. Or at least Union 75 would come forward, make an apologetic statement, and then it would be followed up with a statement and response to the lawsuit from Kroger. July 14 was the deadline for that.

I’ll never forget. I mean, because we are waiting, we’re waiting. I’m sitting in the Aldi’s parking lot getting ready to go in, and I’m listening to a message from Eric, and he’s like, Jana, you’re never going to believe it. It was 5:00 [inaudible].” I thought that message was going to be, okay. Kroger responded. He’s like, Jana. He’s like, they didn’t respond. They didn’t respond. I was like, what? Nothing? They just didn’t respond? Nothing. Complete silence. Complete silence. Kroger didn’t respond. Complete silence. They literally acted like Evan Seyfried did not exist. That he wasn’t even a human being. They never treated him like he was a human being. From the moment that he started being abused Kroger did not treat Evan sire like a human being. And they still are not treating him like a human being. And they’re not treating the Seyfrieds like they’re human beings.

I don’t think that Kroger has a soul at all. They have no heart whatsoever. And as soon as I heard that, I was like, well, crap. Here goes my life. This is what I’m going to be doing now, is being a voice for the Seyfried family. Because you have to. There’s no choice. There was absolutely no choice. And fortunately, the Seyfrieds have a very close friend who has a very big mouth. And I have a lot of heart and passion. And I’ve never been a person who has stood out on courthouse steps and demanded justice for something. But if there had been a need for it, I definitely would be. And I’m a very ethical person and I always stand up for what’s right. And I’m always going to stand up to a bully. I’m just a very right person. I believe in doing things very right. And that’s why I am Eric Seyfried’s very best friend.

We’re both extremely good people. Good people draw other good people to them. And Kroger draws bad people to them. And the Seyfrieds draw good people to them. And they’re surrounded by good neighbors. They have good extended family. Anybody who heard what happened has come forward to help us, and from day one. I started Justice for Evan on July the 14th. July the 15th, Washington Post ran an article. Washington Post is the only national news that has run Evan’s story. They were the first to run Evan’s story. It is a huge crying shame that our local NBC station here in Cincinnati actually thinks that they have more ethical clout than The Washington Post and that they’re more important than The Washington Post. They have not run the story because they are in bed with Kroger.

And if there is another reason why they have not run this story then I want them to tell me. Because I have called their station multiple times, so many times that they know my voice. And they give me the runaround. They haven’t said one time to me, hey, we’re not going to run this story because we believe it’s false. They say, we are so sorry for what happened to Evan. And we’re continuing to do research on how we can help support your campaign. And then they go, thank you, have a nice day. And then they haven’t shown up for one event. They haven’t covered the story at all. Our local ABC station, this is number seven on their stories of 2021. Every other affiliate knows what happened, as NBC knows what happened, as Kroger knows what happened, and only the brave are standing up. And fortunately the brave are loud and strong and powerful. And it was like wildfire as soon as we started.

And it was like 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That first week, I was doing this alone. We believe in doing everything right. As soon as Eric left me that message, I messaged him back and I said, I’m going to start a social justice campaign and I’m starting it now. Today. I had to be at work at 5:30. This was at 5:00. Okay. So I started a Facebook page and an Instagram page within that 30 minutes. Because to me with something this horrific, you have to start immediately. And I worked around the clock for a week, and did interviews. The Daily Mail did a wonderful piece as well. Quite a bit of local news coverage as well. Every affiliate in the tristate area had run the story within that first week except for NBC. And I’m not throwing NBC under the bus. I hope that they will do the right thing and come out with the story. Because they are the most trusted news source in the tristate area.

So when I tell people about Evan – Because everywhere I go, I tell people about Evan. And when I tell them, they say, oh, I didn’t hear about that story. And I say, oh, what news station do you watch? NBC. I said, that’s why you haven’t heard the story. People when I tell them the story and they go, ah, I saw that on Fox. I saw that on Channel 19. I’m like, great. I’m glad that you’re watching Channel 19. That’s why you’ve heard about the story. So about a week after I’d started the campaign, an angel of a human being named Erica, who lives in another state across the country, who’s been a 23-year employee of another… Kroger has a huge family of stores across the country. And we can get that list to you Max, and you can get that out there to all of your listeners so that they will know to boycott those stores as well. Giants, Smith’s, Fred Meyer, King Soopers, these are all Kroger stores.

People are like, oh gosh, I mean, I had no idea. I had no clue that Kroger owns… Kroger owns Vitacost.

Maximillian Alvarez:    Yeah. I think the one back home for me is Ralphs.

Jana Murphy:        Yeah, they’re in 35 states. They’re becoming the Amazon of America. They’re becoming a huge competitor. They’re growing their own crappy products now. I was a loyal Kroger shopper. I have been my whole life. I grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky, an hour and a half southeast of here. My people are from the same area in Appalachia in Kentucky that Rodney McMullen’s people are from. And shame on him. Shame on him. I’ve said that before on The Retail Warzone with Steve Rowland. And any of your listeners can tune in to Retail Warzone as well and see a podcast that my partner Erica and I broadcast there. And I hold no mercy on Kroger and the lead of Kroger Rodney McMullen, because he has the power.

He has the power to come forward. All you have to do is be a good person. And all he would have to do is actually pick up a microphone and call a news reporter and come out and say, you know what? It pretty much looks like I’ve been pretty much a dirt bag since 2014 and all I care about is money. But this is not accurate. I’m actually a good person inside. And this has all just gotten really out of control and it’s time for its change. And anybody who thinks that’s out of the realm of possibility, it’s definitely in the realm of possibility. All you have to do is for there to be a motivation for that to happen and do it. And do the right thing. That’s what we want. We want Kroger to do the right thing. And they’ve shown that they are not going to.

And so when Erica contacted me, amazing, amazing person. And I really want to express my sincere gratitude to her. I would continue to do what I’m doing even if no one had come forward and said, yes, we can help you. But it would not be nearly as successful. I need everyone’s gifts and talents to help. Their energy, the power and numbers, their gifts, their talents, their everything. I don’t possess the abilities to create flyers. I don’t possess the abilities to… Evan’s girlfriend made this t-shirt. I saw her last night and she gave me a bag of t-shirts that she… Evan’s girlfriend, Amy, she’s on vacation this week. She’s a Kroger employee, and she’s on vacation this week. And guess what? She’s spending all of her time on doing things for Justice for Evan.

She took her vacation this week from Kroger to prepare for our nationwide protest which happens March 9, which she is the leader of here in Ohio. That’s unbelievable. I mean, this really just shows so much about Evan. And the fact that Erica and her fiance Brandon who are highly skilled, gifted, highly educated people with a wonderful skill set came to me and said, hey, we read the case. The case was shared to us and we read it, and we want to help you. We looked at the Facebook page, we think we have a skillset. We feel called and that it’s our duty to help you.

Max, that’s unbelievable. I mean, it just shows Evan’s spirit and the type of person that he was. He was a beautiful person and his light is so bright. His light is so bright that it was shining all the way across the country to Erica. And I immediately knew, I was like, oh man, this is angels being sent to me. And I said, please, here you go. You are now co-administrator of these pages, and go, go. Do, do whatever you can do. And that’s what I’ve said to everyone who has reached out. We’ve had a mass of amazing people who reach out and they say, I’ll do whatever you need me to do. And I say, what’s your skill set?

It’s pretty easy to pick up people’s skill set as soon as they reach out. You can tell. These are all amazing people. So people who I know in my personal life who know what I’m doing, they say, how do you know this person? How do you know Vicky? How do you know Deb? How do you know them? And I say, well, they reached out. And they said, I’m going to do this and this and this and this and this and this. And the person in my life will say, well, how can you trust them? And I say, how can I not trust them? That’s what you do. That’s what good people do. We don’t spend any time at all having any conversation about nonsense, about not trusting. We have a job to do. We have a job to do. And that is to change Kroger so that no other worker has to go through anything like Evan went through.

We will not allow them to continue to abuse employees. Evan’s life will not be in vain. The work that he did while he was here, we will not let that end. We will see it through. We will see it through forever. Kroger just can’t wait for us to go away. They’re a quarter of a mile back here right here in my backyard. I mean, they are right there. It’s very accessible for us to gather right outside of their corporate office. Rodney McMullen frequently is in that office, and we can stand right outside his parking space. And he does not like to see us. He has people who protect him in body. But I’ll tell you, they are not protecting him in spirit. We get a lot of messages from people who… I don’t know if he actually feels like people are actually on his side. But they’re not on his side. They’re going to work to get a paycheck. They’re not actually on his side.

And that’s huge. Because we have people who are actually on our side. Now, anybody who’s a good person is on our side. And we don’t like to think of it as divisive, our side, your side. But when it comes to good people, bad people. Yeah. That’s pretty much the way that it is. And a company who is going to abuse its employees, unless they are going to come out, and say, we need to change. Please help us change the president of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition, Jerry Carbo, he’s like, our resources are here for you, Kroger. Our resources are here for you. Take advantage of it. Use our resources. We will help you.

And that’s what we all want to do. The coalition of the peaceful warriors who have gathered in Evan’s name to help the Seyfrieds and to get justice for Evan and to change Kroger. They all say whether it’s Dignity Together, whether it’s the [GE 2] movement, everyone is coming together. We are all together. And our numbers are growing. And we want to help these large companies to see the light. That it does not have to be this way. And we’re having our protest March 9, we will have a protest next March 9, and we will have a protest [the] next March 9. Our first protest, Max, was held two weeks after we started Justice for Evan, and we had 100 people there. 100 people.

And we stood outside of the Kroger where Evan works. And his loved ones and his parents, of course, were not there. His brother was not there. They were in Oregon on a live feed sitting on Evan’s memorial bench. Evan loved to go to Oregon. He had a plane ticket. He took his life on March 9. In June he was supposed to go out and have a vacation with Eric, a hiking vacation in Oregon.

So there’s a memorial bench in Eric’s lovely backyard. And so they were with us live, but we were there in love and solidarity. We had a beautiful candlelight vigil also held in that same parking lot. And we had about 30 people there. We had a large protest where we marched from the courthouse steps in Hamilton County to the Kroger Corporate building on October the 16th. We had close to 50 people there and we’ve had media coverage at all of these events. March 9 will be our largest event as far as body wise and statewide. And we’ve been preparing for this with the Coalition now, with all of the people who have come together. It’s been unbelievable. I mean really, Max, I can’t express to you, every single day since July the 14th something big has happened. We’re doing something every single day.

And every single day we get a phone call from somebody who’s writing a book, or somebody who’s doing a podcast, or someone who has heard Evan’s story. Anytime that the story gets into a good person’s ears, they reach out. So our huge goal is to continue to get Evan’s story known so that more and more and more people can have the opportunity to help us. Because people really do, when they hear about this, no one says, oh my gosh, geez, I don’t want to do this. Everyone gives their time, their energy. The web developers who have come forward to help us develop our webpage. We have a domain for our webpage and Erica, my partner, she’s so gifted with her fiance, Brandon, they’ve created all of our flyers. And we’re going to have the best website. Because we have the very best artist, who is my partner.

I mean, my partner, she’s highly, highly knowledgeable in law. She’s highly knowledgeable in union history. And she has a heart of gold. She is an absolutely unstoppable force. And I am so, so fortunate and blessed to have her in my life, and her energy, and what she has dedicated to the good people in the world. She works night shifts and she works very, very hard. And she spends all of her waking hours out. She doesn’t sleep. She spends all of her time working on Justice for Evan. And we are an unstoppable team. So we’re just going to continue to grow. And the support has been unbelievable. Personally, for me as a person, I wake up every day and I go, I cannot believe that I started this in July and all of these people have come out to help.

I could never believe that this would happen. But that was the vision from the very moment that we knew that we had this job to do. The vision has been… If you can say success for something for such a horrific tragedy. I mean, this is an absolutely horrific tragedy that this is going on, and that this happened to Evan and that he is not here anymore. It is an absolute, horrific tragedy. And we are going to make as much good come from this tragedy that we possibly can. And here in the tristate where Kroger is considered a trusted local company. Kroger, they’ve really snowballed people on this whole like, we’re still that family company. They are not the company that they used to be. We would love for them to return to that so that these consumers can have a grocery store that they can actually be putting their money into an ethical company.

Because people in the area, through this whole tristate area: Cincinnati, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and all through, all down and around the big radius, the community’s heart says Kroger is a good company. That’s the way people believe. And it’s not their fault that they believe that way. Kroger has done an incredibly good job on playing off of Mr. Kroger’s name and the fact that it used to be a good company. And in my opinion, I don’t know Rodney McMullen personally, but you can tell a lot from a person’s actions. And going by his actions, he’s not a good person. And he worked his way up from being a financial analyst. He went to UK. In my opinion, the way that I feel about it is that he always had his sights set on becoming a leader of a large corporation here in this area. And he started working for Kroger at a very young age. I believe he started working for Kroger while he was still in college. Worked his way up to being a financial analyst, and then became a CEO.

I mean, it is a perfect ingredient for a man who grew up in Eastern Kentucky, who people also assume had a very, very good intention and a good heart to become a leader of a company that has also acquired an ingrained… It’s almost like it’s part of our DNA in this area to trust Kroger. And if that person who now is in that role does not have a good intention, then these types of things are bound to happen. The fact that it happened so rapidly and so quickly since he became the CEO in 2014 is not surprising. Because the planets were really aligned for there to come a toxic culture bred very quickly.

Maximillian Alvarez:    Well, Jana, I mean, I really can’t thank you enough for speaking so passionately and powerfully. I would again encourage viewers and listeners to listen to the episode that I recorded with the Seyfried family for Working People where I expressed a lot of my own sympathies and my own views. And we don’t unfortunately have time for that here on this recording and need to wrap up. So I would just encourage folks to learn as much as you can about this. As Jana said, the court filing is publicly available. There has been reporting done by The Washington Post and some local outlets. So I would encourage folks to learn as much as you can about this case. I would encourage folks to do what you can to stop the scourge of workplace bullying.

And as I say all the time on Working People, do what you can to take care of one another. Because ultimately that’s a big part of this story, is that the people who were supposed to be there to help Evan when he needed it most were not. And now he’s no longer here. And Jana, with the remaining time that I have you on this call, I just wanted to ask if you could quickly tell viewers and listeners the scope of this day of action on March 9 and what folks watching and listening can do to either get involved or show support?

Jana Murphy:         Thank you Max, so much. So on March the 9, across the country we have, by next week we should have about 15 states who will be participating. We have a team lead in each state. And that team lead has a group of volunteers who will be standing on, they’ll be either gathering at courthouse steps or state House steps.

And we are working in conjunction with Dignity Together and the National Workplace Bullying Coalition to bring attention also to not only what happened to Evan, but passing the Dignity at Work Act, where we were going to be working with legislatures to bring education,that even though workplace bullying is illegal, these laws are not being upheld in these large corporations, or small businesses as well. That we’ll be looking into eventually down the road.

And for people to get involved for this March 9, it’s definitely far from too late. It’s not too late at all to get involved with this March 9. The Justice for Evan Facebook page, you can reach out to us via the Facebook page. You can see all the states there that are listed. Each state has a separate Facebook page as well. There’s a Dignity at Work Act in Ohio. So each state that is participating has a Dignity at Work Act Facebook page. This is our flyer for this event. So I encourage all the listeners to go to the Dignity at Work Act on Facebook. And then they’ll see all the states that are listed for participation from March the 9th.

Each state has their own separate flyer which has the address and the place that the protests in that state will be held. We will get you in touch with the team lead from that state. Also, people who want to stay anonymous, we have a lot of people who’ll be attending the protests who are actively working at Kroger, and they don’t want their faces to be seen because they are protecting their paycheck. They need to work.

And we really appreciate those brave souls who are coming out. And it is okay to not show your face. We totally understand. And we’ll protect your name, and we’ll protect your face. And we have a lot of volunteers who will be wearing full facial masks at the protest. And there’ll be a press release that will be coming out. It comes out tomorrow, and we’ll be putting that out all the way through the date of the event, where all media across the nation is going to hear about our event that takes place on March the 9th. We’re hoping to get as much media coverage as possible.

And also people who can’t be involved on March the 9th, we know you want to be involved in lots of other ways. And I send packages out every single day with shirts, buttons, supplies, flyers, QR codes, and we are happy to send those to any of your listeners. Just send your address and we’ll get those out to you. And just distribute this information. Let people know Evan Seyfried’s name. Sometimes it’s a little bit hard, just spell Seyfried, if you ever spell it out, tell people Justice for Evan Seyfried. And encourage them to look up just, hey, Google. Google Justice for Evan Seyfried. And you’ll see all the information right there. Keep spreading the word, tell people what happened to him. Tell people what’s going on at Kroger. And it’ll spread. Because I’m such a believer that good things do happen for good people. Evan was the best person. And his mission as a whistleblower was to stop what’s going on at Kroger. And so that is what will be done. Our mission will be accomplished, it’ll just take some work. It’ll take a lot of good people coming forward.

For March the 9th, also, for other people who want to get involved, we have live feeds. If there’s not a protest in your state you can also host a live feed. And it’s very easy and we can connect you on how to do that. We’re also on Twitter. So @justiceforevan on Twitter, Justice for Evan on Facebook, @justiceforevanseyfried on Instagram, and we encourage you to listen to the podcast, read the transcript of the lawsuit. Share it on your pages. And it only takes one person to be a team. So don’t feel like that if you live in Oklahoma – We don’t have somebody in Oklahoma – And you want to make your voice and make Evan’s voice be known, we’ll get you a shirt and send you a large canvas poster, and stand out there and let Kroger know that you stand up for Evan and you stand up for these abused workers.

Maximillian Alvarez:     So that is Jana Murphy, an organizer for the Justice for Evan Coalition and a close friend of the Seyfried family. Jana, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.

Jana Murphy:           Thank you Max.

Maximillian Alvarez:     For everyone watching, this is Maximillian Alvarez at The Real News Network. Before you go, please head on over to therealnews.com/support, become a monthly sustainer of our work so we can keep bringing you important conversations and coverage just like this. Thank you so much for watching.

Maximillian Alvarez

Editor-in-Chief

Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
 
Email: max@therealnews.com
 
Follow: @maximillian_alv