A Safeway Fairy Tale
Fairy tales never come true, right? You know: the ones where a hero tries to save a damsel in distress (from dragon/bad prince/abusive boyfriend), gets wrongly accused by the all-powerful (insert king/queen/corporate boss), punished by (insert thrown in dungeon/sent on dangerous quest/fired from job in middle of recession), and finally vanquishes his foes (insert with magic sword/unicorn/mass movement from the people) for a happy ending.
Doesn’t happen, right? Wrong.
Ryan Young was working his shift at the meat counter of a Safeway when he saw a man repeatedly push and kick a pregnant woman. Ryan didn’t hesitate and, without regard for his own safety, stepped in to protect the woman from being beaten.
A hero right? His corporate bosses probably gave him a promotion, a raise and, we can forgive them if they exploited this to show that Safeway cares about its customers, plastering pictures of the hero in every place possible.
But Corporate America never misses a chance to do the wrong thing. Claiming that Ryan should have called security instead of stepping in himself, the suspended him without pay and, pending the results of an investigation, might fire him. He should, they said have followed company procedure and called security.
Ryan can be forgiven for being such a good citizen because his wife is also pregnant. They are expecting their baby in a few months, so this is probably as good a time as ever for taking away his income, as he prepares for the financial (as well as emotional) changes.
A Safeway customer, Doug Castro, who is also a security guard, believes Ryan did the right thing by intervening. Had he called security and held back, the victim could have sustained serious injuries and endangered the life of her baby.
Indeed, local Police Chief Ron Langford has reviewed the security footage and believes the man who beat his girlfriend could be charged. He also told reporters, “In my mind, in this case Ryan did the right thing.”
Enter the magic sword/wise Jedi master/fairy godmother/whatever – lets call it Change.org and the army of good people form all over the country. Over 180,000 people signed Douglas’ petition asking Safeway to reinstate Ryan with full back-pay, and Safeway has acquiesced.
Ryan’s case became news on CNN and other national media including CBS and Business Insider.
Ryan says he’s “deeply grateful” to everyone who signed the petition. “Knowing that I had all these people standing behind me and that I wasn’t alone really helped me through this difficult time,” said Ryan. “Thank you again to everyone who took the time to help me out.”
And everyone lived happily ever after.
When my boys were younger and we would read them fairy tales and ideologically stories about peace and friendship (I know, poor kids – they have never quite recovered – And To Think That We Thought We Could Never Be Friends should be required reading for every citizen in the world!) – I would often ask them what we could learn from the story.
So here we go:
– Corporate America can and does get it wrong.
– We can stand up to them when we stand together.
– The Internet can be a powerful tool for change.
– The folks at Change.org are awesome.
– Those who signed the petition are awesome.
– Ryan Young is a hero and should be recognized as one.
– Safeway did the right thing in the end.
And now everyone can live happily ever after.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).