Kitchener man says he was fired over unapproved moment of silence for Newtown victims
A woman, left, wears a Christmas hat while sitting with a group seeking donations for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., the site of a shooting massacre last week, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (AP / Julio Cortez)
Published Monday, January 14, 2013 5:34PM EST
A Kitchener man says he lost his job over an unsanctioned moment of silence.
James Fletcher works at Cargill Meat Solutions in Guelph. He says he wanted two minutes of reflection and silence at work to honour the victims of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December.
The shootings, he says, reminded him of his own daughter and how he couldn’t fathom her being the victim of such an incident.
“Looking at the Christmas tree presents, (my wife and I) didn’t know what we would do … if that was us,” he says.
Going into work the next day, Fletcher says he asked his employer for a moment of silence, but was rebuffed.
“It wasn’t really the answer I thought (I’d get), being an American company, being Christmas time, being children,” he says.
In response to the negative action, Fletcher staged a mini-protest of his own. He sat down on the job, taking two minutes for his own moment of silence.
“I just wanted them to know how I felt and that there was more to life than cutting a few pieces of meat for a couple minutes,” he says.
His boss called him into his office after that. Fletcher thought he might be suspended for a week or two over the incident, but instead was told he was being fired.
Officials with UFCW Local 175, which represents Cargill employees, say a grievance process is underway. Fletcher says an arbitration date has yet to be set.
In a statement, Cargill communications director Mike Martin says company policy is to not discuss individual employment issues publicly, but the Guelph plant has an annual “official moment of silence whereby all activity is halted at the facility to respect all who have fallen.”
Fletcher says he feels lost and wants to go back to work, but also that he knows he broke the rules and should have asked for the Newtown victims’ memories to be honoured in a different way, such as holding a fundraiser or lowering flags at the plant.