Teamsters

North America's Strongest Union

Firing of Sysco Worker, a Teamster Supporter, Takes Terrible Toll

Sysco workers in Michigan are mourning the loss of a former co-worker, Don Horn, who died on Monday, Feb. 8 about a year after he was callously fired by the company.

The cause of death is unknown because no autopsy was done.

Horn, 58, was a 26-year employee when he was fired in the winter of 2013. At the time of his firing, he and his co-workers were not protected because they were not Teamster members. After he was fired, starting in the spring of 2014, Horn became an avid supporter of the Teamsters’ organizing campaign. He volunteered to do house calls, leafleting and to help educate his co-workers about the benefits of forming a union with Teamsters Local 406 in Grand Rapids. Horn realized the workers, his former co-workers, needed the protections that come from being a Teamster—having their rights and protections in a legally binding contract.

Horn worked in Alanson, Michigan. In the winter of 2013, his sister suffered a heart attack and he was waiting for a telephone call about her condition. He answered his cell phone while driving and was soon fired by the company. Talking on the phone while driving is something he would not do, but this was a special, emergency circumstance. Two temp workers were also caught doing the same thing that week but the temp workers did not lose their jobs.

Many workers have seen how Sysco has become so callously corporate and this case is a clear illustration of how bad things have gotten.

Horn’s friend, Jesse Silva, said the firing took a tremendous toll on Horn. Silva said he helped Horn find part-time jobs, but they never filled the void left from the loss of his full-time job. Plus, Horn had to take on very physically demanding jobs, which made matters worse.

“To fire him under these circumstances really shows how corporate the company has become,” Silva said. “It’s not about taking care of people any more, it’s all about the bottom line. The company fired Don at his fire station where he was a volunteer chief. The company fired him while he was off the clock, which is atrocious. I’ve never heard of the company doing that. This was a place that he enjoyed to be away from work, and the company came there to tell him he was fired.”

Workers are honoring Horn’s memory by standing united to win positive changes at Sysco in Grand Rapids. The workers Horn helped are in the process of forming their union.