Thousands of people are rallying behind a brain-damaged Walmart worker who was fired last week.
Frank Swanson was a cashier at a Walmart in West Plains, Missouri for nearly two decades.
He was well known in the local community as an enthusiastic worker who loved to hug customers.
He was fired just 20 days short of his 20-year anniversary with Walmart.
A Walmart spokesman told Business Insider that Swanson was fired for excessive price-matching.
But Swanson’s supporters claim he was terminated for giving out hugs, and they are planning a protest at the West Plains Walmart on Saturday to show their support.
More than 1,500 people have committed to attending the rally on a Facebook page called “Hugs for Frank” and another 3,100 said they are interested in attending.
“Walmart has decided to fire Frank, the sweetest employee you’d ever meet, for hugging a costumer,” the page reads. “So we’re going to gather at Walmart on Saturday April 9th with signs or t-shirts offering free hugs. Let’s do this for Frank.”
The workers’ rights group Making Change at Walmart also released a statement on the matter.
“It appears Walmart fired workers for being decent and kind. So, if you believe in hugs or being nice to customers, don’t apply for a job at Walmart,” said Jess Levin, communications director for MCAW.
Swanson’s bosses cited his hugs as inappropriate, but that’s not why he was fired, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Swanson broke store policy on at least one occasion by discounting a jug of tea by 50 cents, after a customer told him a competitor was selling the tea for 50 cents cheaper,thePost-Dispatch reports. He took the customer at her word, but under store policy, he should have asked her to produce a printed circular proving the competitor’s price.
Swanson’s sister, Babbi Marsh, confirmed that Swanson was terminated for excessive price matching.
“He never let anyone walk out without paying for their merchandise. What he was told was that he was being let go for excessive price matching,” she told the West Plains Daily Quill.
Swanson suffered severe injuries including brain damage following an accident when he was young that left him in a coma for six weeks and temporarily paralysed, his family told KSPR TV.
Walmart customer Jenn Harper called Swanson a “sign of hope.”
“I feel like one of our own has been hurt,” she told KSPR. “He’s a sign of hope, he made your day better. If you were having a bad day at Walmart, he would light up your whole trip.”