Papa John’s workers stage lunchtime protest in Lynwood

Papa John’s workers in Lynwood held a lunchtime protest Friday, Jan. 20, claiming management has retaliated against them for speaking out about violence on the job and is refusing to address their concerns.

The non-union employees are demanding a meeting with their employer to discuss how to keep cooks, cashiers and delivery drivers safe. They are also seeking higher wages.

Friday’s rally came on the heels of another walkout that was held Christmas Eve. They are supported by Fight for $15 and a Union. The movement is seeking to secure higher wages and better working conditions for fast-food employees.

The non-union employees are demanding a meeting with their employer to discuss how to keep cooks, cashiers and delivery drivers safe. (Photo courtesy of Fight for $15 and a Union)

Workers at the Papa’s John’s restaurant say managers have threatened and interrogated  rally leaders, even cutting some of their hours instead of engaging with them on the issues they’ve raised.

When a manager at the Lynwood restaurant was contacted Friday, he couldn’t provide any information, and the store remained open throughout the day.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I wasn’t notified about this.”

Represenatives from the company’s home office in Louisville, Ky. could not be reached for comment.

In December, two workers from the Lynwood pizza restaurant filed a public health complaint with Cal/OSHA, laying out the details of unsafe conditions at their store and multiple threatening incidents with people holding guns at work or on their delivery routes.

Aura Lopez, an assistant manager at the 11123 Long Beach Blvd. location, recounted an experience that happened to her one night after she closed the store.

“I was sitting inside my car for about four minutes when a man came up holding a gun,” the 22-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “A friend was with me in the car and we immediately left.”

Another unsettling incident occurred this week when she walked to her car in the restaurant’s rear parking lot.

“I noticed that my trunk was open,” she said. “Then a man jumped over a railing to get away. The lighting behind the store only turns on when there is a sound.”

Papa John’s worker Jose De La Torre, who was also represented in the Cal/OSHA complaint, said he has experienced numerous situations where he’s felt uncomfortable while making pizza deliveries, including one in particular.

“When I approached the customer, he had his hand in his jacket pocket in a way that made it seem like he might be holding a weapon,” De La Torre said in the complaint. “The bill was for $63, and when I asked for the money he gave me what appeared to be a fake $100 bill.”

The money was counterfeit, so the change he gave the customer was real money lost.

The Papa John’s workers are also demanding implementation of Assembly Bill 257, a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year but has yet to take effect. It would create a 10-person, state-run council to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions for the more than half a million fast-food workers in California.

The bill is currently in flux.

On Jan. 13, the Sacramento Superior Court ruled in favor of the Save Local Restaurants coalition, confirming that no enforcement of AB 257, or the FAST Act, can take place while the signatures from more 1 million Californians who signed a petition against AB 257 are verified.

Opponents of AB 257 need 623,000 valid signatures to create a referendum that would put the proposed legislation on hold until November 2024 when voters can decide the outcome. The state has until Wednesday, Jan. 25 to verify the signatures.

Opponents fear AB 257 could push higher prices onto consumers by as much as 20%.

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