I wrote the letter below after I was fired from the Grainger distribution center in Macedonia, Ohio for in essence “sticking up” (i.e. advocating for) the bodily safety of myself and my fellow workers.

After a long fight with their bureaucracy, i was able to received an official response:

Thank you for this morning’s note.  Based upon our having spoken and communicated with one another several times over the last few weeks, I think we have a clear understanding of your perspective.  If there is anything that you haven’t shared, I would be happy to hear from you.  As I indicated when we last spoke, Grainger regularly reviews and evaluates all phases of its warehousing operation in an effort to insure the soundness of its processes and expectations as they relate to those who work within its’ Distribution Center. 

Hank Galatz, Grainger’s Lead Employment Attorney

(the words that follow are what I sent to them)

Dear Sir – 

Thank you for contacting me on behalf of Mr. Macpherson.

Yes I would love to speak to you on the telephone regarding this matter. I am available at 10:00EST on Tuesday the 25th. 

However, before our call I will provide you with some facts so that you can better understand where I am coming from.

During my time at Grainger, I was employed as a machine picker in the Cleveland Distribution Center. 

Shortly in my tenure, I began having problems because of Grainger’s assessment of my “rate”. 

A supervisor named Aaron Roberts started “shadowing” me, and using a stop watch and a notebook, performed a manual rate assessment. 

Aaron informed me that the rate of my actual picks were fine, but I needed to “drive more aggressively” in order to “hit the numbers”.

I specifically told Aaron I would not do this. (To me it is obvious: the integrity of my own body and the safety of my co-workers is the driving factor behind my driving habits.)

The situation continued to escalate as my supervisors followed Grainger’s point accruement-based disciplinary procedures. 

Keeping my pay check and my health insurance was very important to me. So obviously I continued to work as quickly as possible. 

At the same time, however, I also continued to reiterate my unwavering refusal to drive my vehicle in an unsafe manor. 

Eventually Mr. X. became involved, and he chose to handle my situation in a disciplinary fashion.  

It was becoming obvious I would not be able to ‘make the cut’ at Grainger as a machine picker, and I was attempting to transfer into another role. 

I waited several more months to get to the point I was eligible for the transfer.  

During that period, I was involved in several safety related incidents and near misses because of the unsafe driving conditions being created by other drivers who were being forced to “drive more aggressively”.

As the unsafe nature of the driving conditions started coming to light, eventually Mr. X made an announcement that Grainger had acknowledged that machine picking had become unsafe. Therefore a dollar an hour pay increase would be given to all machine pickers.

I was shocked and horrified that the integrity of our bodies was being quantified in such a manor.

Finally I found myself sitting at a table with Mr. X, who was evaluating my eligibility for a transfer.

He looked through my numbers, and then said I was “barely making the grade.”

I informed Mr. X that if objective standards were in place, then we should follow them objectively.

He stated: “That is your philosophy.”

I was denied the transfer, and my situation continued to degrade.

Because of continual harassment, eventually I was forced to quit all-together, which has significant ramifications on my life and my family.

Mr. X was in a position improve safety conditions for machine pickers, but instead he chose to ignore us and do was best for himself.

I found his conduct pathetic and cowardly. (But that is just my philosophy.)

From an objective standpoint, however, I do feel like my civil right to to a safe work environment was specifically denied by Mr. X’s refusal to listen to the concerns of his pickers.

At this time, I am not in a position to do anything other than attempt to bring awareness to the plight of the machine pickers at Grainger. 

However, it is still my hope that some of what I am able to do will result in safer conditions for the friends I was forced to leave behind.

Thank you for your time

Benjamin Pritchard