Break the Chain A "Pep" Rally

Created 4/17/2003 (4/17/2003) You may or may not support the war in Iraq, but nearly every American supports our troops. The circumstances behind this letter pre-date Operation Iraqi Freedom, but that hasn't kept it from becoming a 'support our troops (and punish those who don't)' battle cry.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Pep Boys Auto Parts Stores are firing all employees who are National Guard or Reserves and are being called up for active duty.

There has already been federal law suits filed against Pep Boys. I had to go buy some parts for my truck this weekend and asked the Manager of a Pep Boys here in OKC, who happens to be of middle east decent (his picture and name are at the front of the store), if it was true these people were being fired and he replied it sure was and if he had any working at his store he would fire them too at which point he turned around and walked away. I then dumped my stuff on the counter and walked out. A women in front of me overheard this and she promptly walked out also.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

"Political outrage" chain letters are often emotionally charged but light on facts, leaving the denizens of the 'net to fill in details. This letter is based on actual events and circumstances, but has some of the facts wrong and makes several dangerous leaps of logic.

doteasy.com - free web hosting. Free hosting with no banners.
No, Pep Boys is not "firing all employees who are National Guard or Reserves and are being called up for active duty." Rather, they fired one employee, who claims his termination was due to his military obligations, despite the company's insistence otherwise. Under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, reservists cannot be penalized for their military commitments and are guaranteed a commensurate job and pay when they return from active duty. Time spent serving is counted for seniority, pensions and raises.

Nonetheless, in June, 2002, Navy Reservist Erik Balodis, of Tucson, Arizona, sued the auto parts retailer for which he was a district store manager, claiming he was illegally fired because his military commitments caused him to miss work. The case caught the eye of the national media in mid-March, 2003.

Pep Boys countered that Balodis was terminated "due to performance problems, which Pep Boys could no longer ignore." The company issued three written warnings to Balodis that his work was deficient, demoted him to store manager in February, 2002, and eventually fired him. In a March 20, 2003, statement on their Web site, the company reaffirmed its commitment to its employees in the Reserves and National Guard: "There is no doubt, Pep Boys would never terminate an employee for military service in support of this nation."

As for the apocryphal account of the encounter with the store manager "of middle east decent (sic)," we have no choice but to label this rumor. It smacks of urban legends like the Budweiser Revenge tale that surfaced shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The author does not identify himself or pinpoint the location or time of the alleged event (there are four Pep Boys stores in the Oklahoma City area).

Understandably, how companies treat their military employees during this call-up has fallen under intense scrutiny, as has their general attitude towards military interests. The chain letter above is often seen attached to an older bit of misinformation about Target stores refusing to donate to veteran organizations. On the other end of the spectrum, another chain applauds Sears for its dedication to its employees called to active duty. As with the example above, these earlier chains are based on real cases, but contain enough incomplete, misleading or flat-out false information to push into the realm of rumor and misinformation. This is precisely why e-mail can not be relied upon for news and information. Break this chain!

What Do You Think?

Category: Armchair Activism
References: USA Today, Pep Boys Statement

HOME | Privacy & Copyright