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Elkview Tudors

The Tudor’s Biscuit World in Elkview, W.Va., is seen in March 2019.

CHARLESTON — A small hubbub erupted late Thursday morning at a Tudor’s Biscuit World in Sissonville, West Virginia, where a confrontation ensued between a district manager and workers looking to organize a union.

Off-duty workers at the Elkview Tudor’s traveled to Sissonville, where they learned a district manager was working that day. They notified her they were considering a legitimate, closed-ballot election, to be represented by Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. UFCW, as it is known, also represents Kroger workers.

“First off, we’re not on strike,” said Cynthia Nicholson, an Elkview Tudor’s employee. “Right now, we’re just trying to make them acknowledge that we’re trying to organize a union. I was trying to read this lady my speech.”

The woman, known only as “Carol” by the workers, became irate, Nicholson said. When the manager began a retreat to the kitchen, Nicholson said she followed part of the way, continuing her speech reading.

“She flipped out and got really mean and nasty and started hitting us with that door,” Nicholson said, referring to the swinging door at the kitchen entrance. “She said she was calling the police.”

Kanawha County Sgt. Brian Humphreys confirmed Friday that police arrived but made no arrests. The Elkview workers waited on law enforcement.

“I didn’t want to run because it would have looked like I did something wrong,” Nicholson said.

Elkview workers say they are paid little — a three-year employee there makes $9.50 an hour, they said — and are required to work with minimal staffing. UFCW tweeted an account of the incident, generating lots of response.

Tudor’s Vice President Greg Atkinson emailed a statement to HD Media on Friday:

“Tudor’s Biscuit World of Elkview treats our employees well. We provide comparable benefits and wages to other similar food establishments. We do not believe our employees will see any benefit from being represented by a union. We respect our employees and their rights under federal labor law and they are entitled to a secret ballot election. We will ensure their rights are protected.”

In a summer interview, Atkinson acknowledged that Tudor’s starts employees at $9 an hour. Federal minimum wage is $7.25, though 24 states voluntarily bumped that up this year. West Virginia was not one of them.

Tudor’s starting pay may be adjusted upward, depending on skill and experience, he said. Atkinson went on to praise the dedication of Tudor’s workers.

Tudor’s is an iconic, West Virginia-based business.

UFCW organizing director Alan Hanson was in Sissonville on Thursday.

“We did not have a positive reaction, to put it mildly,” Hanson said. “No one has been charged with trespassing. To charge trespassing on your own employees for exercising their own free rights is low, and I hope Tudor’s won’t stoop that low.”

Hanson said while many Tudor’s locations are individually owned by franchisees, nearly 20 are corporate-owned, making union membership a more direct proposition. Hanson said Nicholson made the first contact.

“These stores are chronically understaffed and do not provide the type of customer service that the employees want to provide,” Hanson said.

Hanson said no other Tudor’s locations have asked for an election, though he said he has seen an uptick in interest.

Workers at Charleston’s two Tudor’s locations said they were unaware of any union effort Friday. The West Side Tudor’s is busy and struggles with staffing. That location and the East End Tudor’s both close at 3 p.m. due to a lack of workers.

Greg Stone covers business for HD Media. He can be reached at 304-348-5124 or gstone@hdmediallc.com.

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