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Continued: Nick Coleman: After 30 years, Taco Bell didn't even offer her any hot sauce

  • Article by: NICK COLEMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 8, 2007 - 7:43 PM

The Edina Taco Bell, at 66th Street and York Avenue S., is one of the highest-volume Taco Bells in the area, with sales of almost $1.5 million a year. Shilson was brought in to run it three years ago, after she had earned two top Taco Bell employee recognition awards (it's called the Golden Bell, of course).

Shilson says she was rated "superior" in a company performance review last spring, but that her supervisor added personal comments that she needed improvement. She says she felt she was being prepared to be pushed out.

"I was set up," she says flatly.

This summer, company supervisors put her on notice, criticizing her performance. She says company cost-cutting and the loss of experienced staff left her without resources to fix the problems.

Also at issue was Shilson's reluctance to vary her schedule in order to close the restaurant a couple of times a month. The Edina Taco Bell stays open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and Shilson says she was told before taking the job that she wouldn't have to close the place. But this summer, she was ordered to change her shifts. She declined.

"The last year was very stressful on me," says the grandmother of six, who has lost more than 20 pounds. "I felt so harassed and there was so much put on me that I could hardly cope, and yet I did. I went in every day and smiled and hired people and trained them."

The ax fell during a visit to her restaurant by two supervisors who told her last Friday that she had failed to meet performance goals set in August. They didn't offer Shilson another position or a demotion, which she might have accepted because she says she wants to work until 70 and needs health insurance.

Shilson tossed her restaurant keys on a table and left in tears.

All I know for sure is that if someone made a mistake in hiring Winnie Shilson, it took 30 years to figure it out.

Shilson recently received a 15-year service pin recognizing her years at Border Foods. On Monday, she called the unemployment office.

"I worked for Taco Bell for 30 years," she told a clerk.

Then what, the clerk asked.

" 'Then what?' "Then they fired Grandma."

Nick Coleman • ncoleman@startribune.com

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