Employees at a Waffle House restaurant in Columbia, S.C. went on strike this weekend, protesting poor and unsafe working conditions, as well as low pay, according to the newly formed Union of Southern Service Workers. After workers delivered a petition to management last week asking for more support on fair scheduling and pay, as well as improved job safety, they claimed their concerns were not adequately addressed and subsequently went on a three-day strike starting Saturday.
“We are working for scraps and pennies,” Waffle House server Naomi Harris told The Post and Courier. “We can barely buy the basic necessities that we need to live off of, we can barely take care of ourselves.”
Employees have described dangerous and threatening working conditions at the store, which is located in a city with one of the highest crime rates in America, with employees experiencing customers throwing cups of salt and sugar at them. One customer described a belligerent customer brandishing a knife on her, according to The Post and Courier.
“Put some respect on my check,” striking employees chanted during the protest over the weekend, with one employee describing a policy of meal deductions at the restaurant, where allegedly meals are deducted from their check, no matter what shift an employee works or if they even take a meal during their shift.
“Out of 6 shifts I work, I might only eat 2 meals. But they are taking money from us regardless,” employee Marshawna Parker said during the protest.
Waffle House declined to address the issues Waffle House employees were protesting directly:
“Waffle House is proud of its long record of effectively addressing any concerns our Associates report to us,” Njeri Boss, vice president of public relations with Waffle House said in a statement emailed to Nation’s Restaurant News. “We intend to do that directly with our Associates.”
Of course, Waffle House is not the only restaurant that has chosen to strike and/or unionize over working conditions. Starbucks, with more than 300 cafes unionized, has garnered plenty of media attention over its clashes with unionized stores and employees over the past 18 months. Although no restaurant chain has come close to unionizing en masse like Starbucks, individual stores like Ben & Jerry’s and Waffle House are following in their footsteps to demand better working conditions, fairer scheduling and higher pay.
Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]