(Content Warning: bullying, harassment, suicide.)
This time last year, we introduced listeners to the family of Evan Seyfried, a dedicated Kroger employee in Milford, Ohio, for nearly 20 years, whose beautiful life was tragically cut short after he was targeted and tortured by coworkers and driven to suicide, according to Evan’s family. A lot has happened since we published that episode one year ago, and we wanted to provide Working People listeners with an update on how Evan’s family and loved ones are doing, the status of the lawsuit against Kroger, and how the Justice for Evan coalition is growing around the country. In this episode, we check in with Evan’s father Ken, his brother Eric, his girlfriend and best friend Amy Chamberlin, Jana Murphy and Erica Erskine of the Justice for Evan coalition, and Austin LiPuma, the attorney representing the Seyfrieds in their lawsuit against Kroger.
Additional links/info below…
- Justice for Evan Facebook page, Twitter page, and Instagram
- Working People, “Evan Seyfried (w/ Ken, Linda, & Eric Seyfried)“
- Maximillian Alvarez, The Real News Network, “‘Justice for Evan’: Supporters Demand Accountability from Kroger after 19-Year Employee Allegedly Bullied by Management to Suicide“
- Maximillian Alvarez, Breaking Points, “Max Alvarez: A DEADLY, Silent Epidemic of Workplace Abuse is Growing“
- National Workplace Bullying Coalition website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- “Lawsuit: Kroger Manager Drove Employee To Suicide” (PDF)
- Julian Mark, The Washington Post, “Former Kroger Grocery Store Employee’s Suicide Was a Result of ‘Torturous Conditions,’ Lawsuit Says“
Permanent links below…
- Leave us a voicemail and we might play it on the show!
- Labor Radio / Podcast Network website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- In These Times website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- The Real News Network website, YouTube channel, podcast feeds, Facebook page, and Twitter page
Featured Music (all songs sourced from the Free Music Archive at freemusicarchive.org):
Jules Taylor, “Working People Theme Song”
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.
Maximillian Alvarez: All right. Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Working People, a podcast about the lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles of the working class today. Brought to you in partnership with In These Times magazine and The Real News Network, produced by Jules Taylor, and made possible by the support of listeners like you. Working People is a proud member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network. If you’re hungry for more worker and labor focused shows like ours, follow the link in the show notes and go check out the other great shows in our network. And please support the work that we’re doing here at Working People so that we can keep growing and keep bringing you more important conversations with workers every week. You can leave us a positive review on Apple Podcasts, and of course you can share these episodes on your social media and share them with your coworkers, friends, and family members.
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My name is Maximillian Alvarez, and as I’m sure you guys can imagine, I am still recovering from last week. Since politicians in DC and the mainstream media finally decided to take an interest in the story, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off doing a billion interviews and doing everything that I possibly could to cover the crisis on the nation’s railroads and the impending national rail shutdown. And I mean, if you listen to this show and if you follow the coverage that journalist Mel Buer and I have been doing at The Real News, or if you catch my labor segments over at Breaking Points, then you already know what most people in this country still don’t: We have not “averted” a rail strike.
And frankly, the issues that have been driving rail workers into the ground, many of which you’ve heard about on this show, those still have not been adequately addressed. And what we know now is that railroad workers are holding informational pickets at terminals around the US this week while we wait for more concrete details and while we wait for the rank and file to vote on the tentative agreement that was reached last week just before the deadline when strikes or lockouts could officially begin on the country’s freight railroads. For the time being, as the great Ron Kaminkow of Railroad Workers United would say, we’re going to keep our ears to the rail, and rest assured over at The Real News and here on Working People, we will keep bringing y’all coverage on this story by talking to more workers themselves in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, we have another important episode for you guys today. And I just want to give everyone a warning up top, as we’ve done in the past, to let you know that this episode deals with the topics of suicide and workplace bullying. September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, and last September, in what was undeniably the hardest episode that I have ever recorded and published, we introduced you guys to the family of Evan Seyfried, a dedicated Kroger employee in Milford, Ohio, for nearly 20 years, whose beautiful life was tragically and unforgivably cut short after he was targeted and tortured by coworkers and driven to suicide, according to Evan’s family.
As we wrote in the description for that episode one year ago, “Evan Seyfried was a loving son, brother, 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 supervisors at the Milford store, that caused Evan to eventually suffer a transient episodic break and take his own life.”
And in that episode, I spoke with Evan’s mother, Linda, his father, Ken, and his brother, Eric, about the beautiful person that Evan was, the horrific treatment that he endured, and the need to hold those who wronged him accountable. And I want to thank everyone who listened to that episode, because I know it wasn’t easy to do. I want to thank you all for caring about Evan and the Seyfrieds, and for helping us spread the word about what they’ve gone through as they continue to fight to hold Kroger accountable and to make sure that what happened to Evan never happens to anyone ever again.
And of course, they haven’t been fighting that fight alone. Earlier this year, in March, we also published a follow-up interview with Jana Murphy, a close friend of the Seyfrieds and one of the co-founders of the Justice for Evan Coalition. And Jana and I talked in that episode about the growing movement around the country that’s being led by family friends, fellow workers, and volunteers who are fighting to make sure that Evan’s name isn’t forgotten.
And I mean, a lot has happened since then, just in the world in general, but also in regards to the lawsuit, in regards to the fight to hold Kroger accountable and to get Kroger the company and its executives to acknowledge what happened to Evan. And since we here at Working People have become so invested in this fight, and since we know that our listeners are too, we wanted to provide y’all with another update on how Evan’s family and his loved ones are doing, what the status of the lawsuit against Kroger currently is, and how the amazing folks behind the Justice for Evan Coalition are faring, and how the coalition itself is growing.
And it was, admittedly, quite difficult to pull this recording off, given all the different time zones and work schedules that we were juggling. But thanks to Jana and Erica at Justice for Evan, we were able to make it happen. And what you’re about to hear is an important panel of incredible people whom I am honored to know, honored to be in this struggle with, and who I really can’t thank enough for talking with us and continuing to share their story and Evan’s, even though it is clearly so painful to do. So in this episode, we check in with Evan’s father Ken, his brother Eric, his girlfriend and best friend Amy, Jana and Erica of the Justice for Evan Coalition, and Austin LiPuma, the attorney representing the Seyfrieds in their lawsuit against Kroger, and fighting for them and for Evan in court. This is their story, and this is for Evan.
Ken Seyfried: My name is Ken Seyfried. I’m Evan’s father. I filed the lawsuit.
Eric Seyfried: My name is Eric Seyfried. I’m Evan’s older brother.
Amy Chamberlin: I’m Amy Chamberlin. I was Evan’s girlfriend.
Erica: I’m Erica. I am the co-founder of Justice for Evan, 24-year employee with the Kroger Company.
Jana Murphy: I’m Jana. I’m a close friend of the Seyfried family and co-founder of Justice for Evan.
Austin LiPuma: I’m Austin LiPuma. I am a civil litigation attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio, focusing primarily on personal injury claims, and have the utmost privilege of representing the Seyfried family in their case filed against the Kroger Company.
Maximillian Alvarez: Well, Ken, Eric, Amy, Erica, Jana, Austin, I cannot thank you all enough for being on this call with us today. And honestly, can’t thank you enough for all that you do. It’s really been a true honor to get to know all of you and to be introduced to some of you now. And I think that, obviously, out of the most horrific and tragic circumstances, I think the love that everyone here has for Evan and the Seyfrieds, the commitment that everyone has to justice and fairness and to holding companies like Kroger accountable for the unspeakable acts that are committed against their employees like dear Evan Seyfried, that’s a real testament to the heart and soul of everyone here. And I really wanted to thank you all again for all that you do, for allowing us here at Working People to help share Evan’s story and the Seyfried family’s story.
As I mentioned in the introduction of this episode, the first episode that we recorded with the Seyfrieds was easily the hardest episode I’ve ever recorded, but I think the most important. And it’s something that got our listeners invested in a story that they may not have known about, and I only knew about it because Erica had reached out to me about it. And then I connected with Austin, who helped connect us with the family. So I just really wanted to emphasize for everyone listening here, you hear me doing these interviews, but these interviews would not happen if it wasn’t for everyone here. And Evan’s name wouldn’t be as widely known as it is if it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of his loved ones who are here on this call.
And I wanted to pick up on that in that vein and go around the table since we have this special occasion here to have everyone on this one call. We’re going to give folks updates on where things stand now with the lawsuit, with the shareholder meeting that happened earlier this summer. Folks have been asking how the family is doing and Evan’s loved ones are doing, so we’re going to talk about that.
But before we get there, I wanted to just take this occasion to go around the table and give everyone the chance to say a little bit about what Evan means to you, what this fight for justice for Evan and for Kroger workers, what that means to you, and any thoughts that you want to share with listeners who have gotten invested in this struggle as well.
Ken Seyfried: Okay, let me start. Again, this is Ken. I had a 30-year career with a Fortune 10 company in human resources. I did a lot of organizational development and design work with that company. And I know that a corporate citizen or a company, when it comes to their employees, their number one responsibility is to provide a safe working environment for their employees. I know that. But you look here in this lawsuit with Kroger, not only did they violate that tenet of a corporate citizen, but they went 180 degrees with it. They ended up targeting and terrorizing a 19-year employee because my son Evan refused to accept a toxic working environment, helped a couple of young ladies in that store that were being sexually harassed.
And because of that, the Kroger Company targeted him. They wanted him gone. They saw him as a whistleblower. The night that I found my son dead on the floor, I made a promise to him that this was wrong, that they should have protected him, not targeted him, that I was going to hold them accountable for what they did to him. I promised him that, and that’s why I filed the lawsuit. And I wanted your listeners to know it’s a whistleblower case. My son stood up against that. And that company turned their backs on him. Instead of protecting him, they targeted him.
Eric Seyfried: This is very personal to me. Evan was my only brother. His loss has left a gigantic hole in my life and in my heart. It’s very important to me that this fight for justice results in raised awareness about how workplace bullying contributes to poor mental health and the ramifications that that can have on an individual and a family and all their loved ones.
Amy Chamberlin: Evan was my best friend, my boyfriend, the love of my life. Also, I worked for Kroger for 13 years. That’s actually where we met, was at work. And so I want to make sure that no one else goes through what he experienced, and, alternatively, how it has affected my life and the Seyfrieds’ life and anyone who knew him. Because even though I have never been bullied in the workplace per se, it’s had a tremendous effect on my life, and I don’t want anyone else to have to feel that, ever.
Erica: Going off of what Amy said, I’ve never been targeted or bullied in my entire time with Kroger either, but I’ve seen a lot of things go down that shouldn’t be allowed to happen in a workplace. With my tenure with the Kroger Company, when I first heard about Evan’s story and read it online, I immediately, literally jumped into action. I guess you could say, for lack of a better term, I was pissed. I was pissed that a company that I’ve been with for over two decades was even capable of allowing people like Shannon and Joe to walk among us. And I was very disturbed by that. And I had reached out to Jana to see if she needed any assistance, because I had a lot of different skill sets that I felt that I could offer in addition to being a long-term employee.
And the rest is pretty much history there, as far as that goes. But my role primarily for over a year now with Justice for Evan, has been more of an advocacy role for other employees that still continue to message us weekly. In fact, I’ve gotten at least five messages this past week from people that are just now hearing about the story, and also people that aren’t even Kroger related are still continuing to reach out. So I’m doing this for all workers, really, and to change the tide with the Kroger Company and the faulty leadership that we currently have.
Jana Murphy: When Kroger did not respond when the lawsuit was filed, it was shocking. They treated Evan not only while he was living but that his life did not matter and does not matter. They treated him like he did not matter even after his death, knowing, they know good and well what happened to him. They stayed silent. It was a further slap in the face to the Seyfried family that they did not speak out at all, that Rodney McMullen did not, until his hand was literally forced, which we’ll come to later, in the shareholder meeting on June 23.
He did not mention Evan’s name. He doesn’t care about his employees. No one who shops at Kroger is educated on what’s really happening. There’s this huge facade on Fresh for Everyone and everyone has to be educated on what’s really going on. And we’re not going to stop until it is common knowledge what Rod McMullen has done to Kroger since 2014, his agenda, his intent. And things have to change. And we’re never going to go away, and we’re just going to get louder and continue to grow. And Kroger’s right here in my backyard. And it is a shame, it is a crying shame that this company employs 450,000 people in this country, and the corruption that’s going on. So not only now is it a personal thing that Kroger drove Evan Seyfried to his death, but now it’s for the greater good of all mankind. And I’m not going to stop until Kroger’s changed.
Austin LiPuma: Max, what you heard from everyone, and so the listeners know, illustrates exactly why I chose this profession to begin with. Because the goal of theoretically every attorney, but not often is that true, is to attempt to give a voice to the voiceless. And I can’t say it as well as those that knew him prior to his passing can, but what I can attempt to do is wade through the legal labyrinth, and fight doggedly, and be inspired by every single person, especially Ken and Eric, who have been thrust into an impossible role of trying to ensure that multi-billion dollar corporations and bad actors don’t continue to go about their lives and destroying the spirit of others.
And that’s why when you ask specifically what Evan means to us, or to me, I’ve largely attempted to compartmentalize, sometimes not all that well if I’m being 100% honest, because my singular role is to always and forever protect the legal interests of the Seyfried family. Because the overarching [inaudible] that’s applicable for everyone in this Zoom chat, on this podcast, the listeners across the country, and the literal thousands of folks that have joined this movement on Evan’s behalf, and even more globally, the unions that have been formed largely as a byproduct of the pandemic, is to make sure that we stand up against bullies.
That’s what Evan did, that’s what he attempted to do until his literal dying day. And he was deprived of the opportunity to continue to do that because he was forced to be alone and exiled. And thankfully, as us five, six sit here in this virtual room, we’re supported by thousands that have been so touched without ever even meeting or speaking to Evan, myself included, because of who he was and the light that he possessed. And none of us will rest until there is that key word, being accountability.
Maximillian Alvarez: And again, I mean, it’s so hard even just hearing the pain in everyone’s voices. I genuinely can only imagine what Eric, Ken, Amy, Linda, all of you are feeling on a daily basis. And to keep fighting amidst that impossible grief and to find strength in one another. There’s a lot in this world that makes me quite hopeless. But I think, again, seeing the fight that y’all are waging and seeing the response that even just on our dumb little podcast, seeing the amount of people who heard that story and it pushed them to get involved, to get off the sidelines, even if it just was reaching out to their coworkers and asking if they were okay. You can’t quite measure what impact that has, but we know what happens when you don’t have that at work. We know what happens when you are targeted and you don’t have the support that you need. And I think that everyone who listens to this show can get behind the cause of ensuring that no one ever has to endure what Evan had to endure ever again. That is a cause worth fighting for, and these are people we should be fighting alongside.
And I wanted to, again, just with the limited time that we all have together, there’s so much, of course, that I want to say to all of you and about Evan, but I want to take advantage of the remaining time that we have to go back around the table and ask if we could give folks updates on where things are now. We know, as we mentioned, that there was a big shareholder meeting that y’all were organizing around at Kroger. We know that the lawsuit was filed before we recorded that first interview. The Justice for Evan Coalition has been doing demonstrations, and they’ve been cropping up all around the country, which is incredible.
So for all of us, if we could go around. And if this is your first time on the show, please, by all means, share more, as much as you’re comfortable with, about your involvement in this fight, or anything that you want to share with listeners about Evan, the Seyfrieds, or what you’re going through at work. And if we could give folks updates on where things stand in this fight right now to seek justice for Evan, to hold Kroger accountable, and to make sure that this never happens again.
Ken Seyfried: Okay, I’ll start. I’d like to talk about what I call the pink letters that I’ve started on Justice for Evan with the help of Erica. And Max, I know you’re aware of that because you’ve liked a couple of those letters. I’ve started writing pink letters on the JFE website for basically three reasons. One, I’ve written a couple letters talking about what Evan and I did together as a father and a son, to really let the followers of JFE know what kind of person that he was, and gotten a lot of good feedback from those letters. My second reason for writing those letters is to make people aware of how horrible I see the Kroger employees being treated across the country. And I’m continually writing about how they’re underpaid, underfed, having to work in a toxic environment. And I’ve gotten some strong feedback on those letters. But the third and most important reason for me to write those letters is to hold Kroger accountable as best I can without giving Austin any heartburn. To this day, 16 to 18 months after Evan’s death, Kroger has yet to reach out to this family.
The union has yet to reach out to this family. The only acknowledgement that Rodney McMullen has given this family was when he was forced into a question at the stockholders meeting, that I’m sure you’re going to hear more about from others. And I just wanted your followers to know just how horribly this company has not only targeted Evan, but they continue to target this family with their silence. So I write these letters, it’s cathartic for me, but it’s more important to me that they’ve learned about my son, they’ve learned about the horrible situation with employees across the country, they’ve learned about just how ugly this management has been to this family. And that’s my update.
Eric Seyfried: All right. My update is going to be a little bit more on the personal front. We have an incredible group of supporters that are going to provide updates on the fight for justice and the legal fight. I’ve really been focused on helping my folks heal and on my own personal healing, because this is the worst loss that our family’s ever tried to endure, and it’s totally required us to create a new normal. We’ve made it through the first year by pulling together and trying to take joy in each other’s company, knowing that Evan would want that more than anything else. It’s very important that we come together. My brother and my parents lived in Cincinnati together. My brother was a lifeline for them when he was alive. But when he passed away, that left no child of theirs in Cincinnati to take care of them.
So I’m out here in Portland, Oregon. We’ve spent at least six months a year together since Evan’s passing, and we’ve really been there to support each other. We’ve been able to make some progress in our healing, mostly because of all the good people that are on the line today, taking the fight to Kroger on our behalf. And I just want to thank Austin, Jana, Erica, Amy, and everybody else who’s joined and fought to hold Kroger accountable. It’s allowed my family to focus on our grief and to focus on trying to figure out how we move forward.
Amy Chamberlin: So mostly the parts that I would like the Justice for Evan that I’m working on is I organize the Justice for Evan team for the Out of the Darkness Walk here in Cincinnati. And I’m sure Erica and Jana will have a lot more to tell you about all the other things going on with Justice for Evan right now. So that’s all I really had to say right now. Thanks.
Erica: Yeah, updates. We’re in the month of September right now, and September is National Suicide Prevention Month. So we have some things that are going to be coming up with that. Mainly, as far as the social media goes, just sharing a lot of things pertaining to that, resources. Amy just mentioned the Out of the Darkness Walk, which is put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And there’ll be an event posted like today. Sorry for my delay on that, Amy. So there’s that. So this month we’ve mainly been focused, obviously, on the bullying and [inaudible] aspect related to what happened to Evan, but this month we’re honing in on the suicide prevention part, which is also another cause that’s very personal to me, because I can empathize directly with the Seyfrieds, because I’m a survivor of suicide loss and a witness of suicide.
So I completely empathize with them with the loss of Evan. And then in October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month, we have some other events that we’re planning. So we’d like the listeners and any of the followers to just check up on social media to follow any of those things that are upcoming. And also the JFE official website will be up soon as well. We’re still continuing to work on that. And we’ll also be launching the billboard campaign as well.
Jana Murphy: Thank you, Erica. Well, I couldn’t be more proud of the Seyfried family through this year, seeing Eric and the strength that he has given to his parents, providing them an incredible shelter, loving and support and the strength that Ken and Linda have shown. Ken writing his letters and Linda truly working on healing, really working on healing. And the Seyfrieds are such people of integrity and work ethic. And we’re all here because Evan was an incredible human being. The legacy that he left with his 19 years at Kroger, and being a tremendous leader, and the fact that he was helping people at work, right until the very end of his life. And his light, that beautiful light that Evan had here on this planet, we are going to hold that torch forever, for as long as we are here.
And then, because his legacy and his memory is going to make real change in this world. And we have a tenacious fight. We’re all fighters, and we all have real ethics and real heart, and we’re never going to let Kroger get away with what they did to him and what they’re doing to other people. Right before the meeting started, I opened my laptop and got a message on Twitter from another victim of Kroger, somebody that we hadn’t heard from before. And this is going to end. These people have a safe place now thanks to Erica and the associates page that she started on Justice for Evan over a year ago. Of course, there’s so many things to say, and I look forward to doing future podcasts with you, Max. And as always, thank you so much for giving Evan Seyfried a voice and shining the light on what’s really going on in America and in the world with workers.
And congratulations on your book that was released last week, The Work of Living. And I’ll get back to the shareholder meeting, since we touched base on that earlier. And what a huge… I’m going to call it an accomplishment for the good team that Rodney McMullen, albeit a prepared statement, it was not super short. It was an actual statement where he said Evan’s name in a shareholder meeting. That’s the first time that’s ever been done in history. And even though I’m sure that he despised actually having to do that, he was forced to do it. And if he’s not going to do what he’s supposed to do on his own recognizance, he’s going to be forced to do it. So we have lots of ideas for the future and all those things are going to come to fruition. And as Erica said, in the near future, we have events coming up in October, and we look forward to seeing our supporters, and looking forward to a future of justice.
Austin LiPuma: To piggyback off of where Jana ended, I really would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the work of, from you, Max, to Erica, to Amy, Jana, and perhaps most of all Eric and Ken. I think we live in a time where it’s easier, often, to throw your hands up, subscribe to full-fledged fatalism, and just do what you can with your own personal baggage and move on. But when we look around in this room and outside of it, across the country, and so many people, to use Jana’s term, now have a safe space, or somewhere to go, somewhere to turn and know, as cliche as it may sound, that they are not alone, which Evan was forced to feel day by day, moment by moment, by his own employer, is exactly what emboldens us to pick up the torch that they attempted to extinguish from him and shine a light for everyone that has dealt with this to every certain degree on a gradient.
And related to that, typical attorney qualification, as I fall into that trope, speaking of good and just and ethics, Ken mentioned it and he knows it well, my duty to him and, by proxy, Linda and Eric is sacrosanct, and I will do nothing to ever jeopardize that. So I get it at least 10 times a day from strangers and those impacted alike what’s going on. And my job is to always focus on the best interests of the family. So of course I want to always provide true updates, but I’m limited in some ways by some ethical rules that confine us. So per usual tangential ways of attorneys explaining things, that’s to say I can paint with a very broad brush and tell you what is discernible from legal filings.
The idiom the wheels of justice turn slowly is the truest statement in the field of law. Everyone in this room has, unfortunately, had to learn that. For every listener that has been exposed to some degree of litigation, you know that to be true, too. But what I do know, and I know it for sure, is that Evan would’ve wanted each and every one of us, myself included legally, to fight at every turn, no matter how long it takes, because his 19-year tenure demonstrated that, and it’s what he did until his very last day on this earth. So just about a year ago, an exhausting year ago, Kroger filed what is equivalent to a motion to dismiss the case, largely predicated on a premise that is very difficult by saying a suicide is not something someone else or some company can be held legally responsible for.
Without getting in the weeds, but what the listeners deserve to know is that, since that time, there’s been a lot of motion filing, hearings back and forth. But what I can tell the listeners, and what Eric and Ken already know, is that we have a good faith belief a decision on that motion is imminent. When I say imminent, I truly mean any day or week now. And I can only hope that the field of law actually does have a modicum of why I chose it, which is it comports with notions of justice. Because we know there’s been wrongdoing, and we’re taught from a young age that if you do something wrong, especially egregiously wrong, you should be held accountable. It breaks my heart that large companies and entities and lobbying efforts have dictated so much of what happens here and across the entire world. But what I think you can illustrate better than I can, Max, and for all the listeners, is that we’re fighting every day.
And you may not see all the wins until they’re stacked upon one another, but the everyday worker is stronger than she was just a month ago, a year ago, or two years ago. And it’s because of the like-minded people in this room that Evan’s spirit will not ever, ever, ever be stymied, despite the fact that, for a moment, the bad actors thought they won. So unfortunately, I wish I had a more tangible update, but this field has taught me, as a person who’s wildly impatient in terms of my DNA, that as soon as you think there’s all hope lost is when the light is finally seen. So I know that no matter what, there’s no more people that deserve it in the world than the Seyfried family. So whenever I have my own pity party, I think about what it is to actually be them. And that’s why they deserve not only their story to be told, but for justice to follow in its path.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell, yeah. And I want to assure listeners that we get more updates after this episode is posted, we will definitely share it with y’all on the podcast, on our social media feeds. You guys already know the Justice for Evan Coalition, which you should be following on Facebook and Twitter. You can check out the website, you can see these letters that Ken has been writing. I encourage y’all to share them as far and wide as you can. So we’re going to stick with this, we’re going to stay committed to this fight, to the Seyfrieds, to everyone here, and we thank everyone listening for doing the same.
And I just wanted to, again, thank everyone here for taking the time to chat with us. And with the remaining three minutes, by way of rounding out, I just wanted to maybe go around the table one more time and ask if y’all had any final words that you wanted to share to anyone who is being bullied or isolated at their workplace. Anyone who wants to help but doesn’t know where to start. And anyone who wants to specifically help with the Justice for Evan campaign.
Ken Seyfried: Let me just say this. If anyone out there listening has a loved one that works for Kroger or a Kroger affiliate and you don’t hear much from them in terms of how it’s going at work, I would ask that you involve yourself with them, ask them how it’s going at work, be apprised of what’s going on with them at work, and be there for them. Because I didn’t do that with Evan. I assumed that Kroger, who had a responsibility to treat him like a human being, was in the process of dehumanizing him. I was his father. So if you have a loved one that works for that organization, don’t lose sight of where they’re at with them. Stay in touch with them. Be there for them. Because I wasn’t there for my son, and I don’t want you to make that same mistake.
Eric Seyfried: I would just say to anyone that’s currently undergoing workplace bullying, reach out, get on Justice for Evan. There’s resources there for you. Know that your family loves you, that they want to be there to support you, that there’s getting through this and that there’s resources, both personal and through Justice for Evan to support you.
Erica: I second everything that Ken and Eric just said. Just reach out to us, we’ll message you back ASAP. I pretty much have my nose buried in social media these days, so just reach out to us. We have lots of resources. If we don’t have an answer, we will surely find one for you. My advice to anybody that thinks about getting into grocery retail, don’t. Run as far away as possible. But for those of us that are in this for the long haul, have been in this for the long haul, I would just encourage people to learn more. Just learn more. Learn what your rights actually are. For union members, look up Weingarten rights. Just so many things that people really don’t know about their workplace and the organization of it and the inner workings.
So I would definitely encourage any worker anywhere to do that. And try not to feel helpless. I know it’s easier said than done. But just know that you aren’t alone. And unfortunately, there’s too many people going through this at the Kroger Company and elsewhere. And we’re all a united force, it’s strength in numbers. And we outnumber, by far, the executives in corporate, the board of directors. So we need to utilize that collective power and throw it back at them and take back what’s ours. Because we are the biggest asset to any of these corporations, period.
Jana Murphy: So many people who are at work, they’re just used to being abused, they’re just used to it. They actually think that, oh, this is just the way it’s going to be at any job. I’m here making my not very much money, not even enough to live on, as More Perfect Union did their story on Kroger and how full-time employees at Kroger are not even making a living wage. I mean, it’s fact. It’s not just a theory, it’s fact. That’s actually happening. And we know there’s so many people at the corporate Kroger office who do not like what’s going on. They do not like Rodney McMullen. We want to hear from you. You can message us. We work totally anonymously when anybody says that they want to stay anonymous. You can message us. And for the employees who are working on those front lines, you are valued.
Even though Kroger closes your stores because they didn’t want to pay hazard pay, and you’re treated like that you don’t matter, you do matter. You do matter. You’re going every single day, busting your butt, working super long hours, being tormented by some customers and some of your coworkers and by your company. And it should not be that way, it should not be that way. And we’re going to work tirelessly. We are working tirelessly for you so that things are better for you in your future. So that when you’ve worked for a company for 10 years, you don’t want to give up that investment, you just want things to get better. And we are going to make sure that things do get better.
Austin LiPuma: Yeah, real quickly to echo that sentiment, I know we are low on time, but A, exactly that. Let no one tell you, every single listener experiencing some degree of what we are discussing, let no one tell you to leave it behind, it’s just work. The cruel reality is that most of us spend more of our waking hours at work than anywhere else on this planet. More than with our family, more than with our friends, more than with our children, more than any other extracurricular activity. So when bad things happen at work and someone suggests to just put it behind you and don’t let it affect your psyche, that is complete lunacy. So please know in terms of specific resources, can’t make any promises about viability of cases, but what I can tell you is that I have learned specifically, in terms of trying to be a personal resource to every single caller since the day we filed.
So A, first and foremost, call me. Again, my name is Austin LiPuma. I work for a law firm called Freking Myers & Reul. I’ll give Max my contact information. Ken and Eric know this to be true too. I’ve fielded hundreds of calls since then. Most of them aren’t cases whatsoever, but there is value in being heard and giving advice as best as I can. And you deserve that as someone experiencing something problematic.
Another great avenue that I highly recommend if you’re being retaliated against, discriminated against, whatever it might be, there’s a website called NELA, nela.com. And under that website it’s called the National Employment Lawyer Association. Every single attorney there is certified in some way, and you can search by your own location to try and find someone who has a specialty. And often these consultations are free. But what we have learned is the value of being heard and your story being told before it’s too late, and that can’t happen anymore. So truly, I echo everything said here. Reach out. You deserve it.
Maximillian Alvarez: Beautiful. So I know that I’ve got to let y’all go. Amy, did you have anything you wanted to get on the recording before I stop?
Amy Chamberlin: I guess just if you are experiencing stuff, if you have a loved one to talk to, definitely reach out and talk to them. Because they don’t want to be surprised if something happens, and your loved ones really want to be there for you and try to make it better.