An Albany-area Walmart employee fired from his job for redeeming $2 worth of cans he collected while gathering shopping carts in the store’s parking lot has drawn widespread sympathy and support on social media.
Thomas Smith, 52, told the Albany Times Union that he was fired in early November for redeeming a total of $5.10 worth of cans and bottles on two occasions, and said he was unaware that doing so violated store policy.
Support for Smith grew after a story on his termination from the Albany Times Union. A GoFundMe drive for Smith set up by Dounya Hamdan, of Chicago, has nearly reached the $5,000 goal as of Friday afternoon.
On the day he was fired, Smith, a formerly homeless ex-convict who has a learning disability, had stayed three hours past the normal end of his shift, having agreed to work extra time on a day when the East Greenbush, New York, store was short-staffed.
A Walmart spokesperson said the store did not take issue with the $3.10 worth of empty beer cans he took after a man discarded them in the parking lot, but with the $2 he redeemed from cans and bottles left in a shopping cart just inside the store’s entryway.
Smith said he was fired after signing a statement and undergoing an interrogation by three security managers in the store’s security office. He said that he did not have his glasses at the time and could not read the statement, but signed it to avoid any parole violation.
“I didn’t know you couldn’t take empties left behind. They were garbage,” Smith told the Albany Times Union. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain myself. They told me to turn in my badge.”
The $2 worth of bottles and cans were Walmart property, the spokesperson said. Smith was guilty of “gross misconduct” by redeeming them.
Smith, who is black, has since contacted prisoner advocate Alice Green at the Center for Law and Justice in Albany, who took up his cause, citing issues of race as reasons for Smith’s termination.
This article was written by Mahita Gajanan in New York, for theguardian.com on Friday 20th November 2015 22.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010