Pizza Workers in Olympia Continue Strike
In February of 2005, all nine Pizza Time workers in Olympia WA and their manager Alex Wentz went on strike to take a stand against racism and to stand up for their rights as workers. Shane Bloking, a previous manager at Pizza Time, bought into the business and immediately fired two competent employees. Shane has a history of uttering racist comments and it came to no surprise when Abara, the store's only African-American employee, was the first to be fired Shane's second day. Shane started to replace the workers with his incompetent brother and his friends.
Instead of watching our co-workers get fired for no good reason one-by-one, we held a meeting at Alex's house that night. The remaining workers didn't want to work at Pizza Time under these conditions. We chose to take a stand on Feb 11th. We drafted a list of basic demands that night that had to be unconditionally met or we would stop making and delivering pizza and go on strike. The demands were:
1) Abara and John get their jobs back Jeff Bloking (the owner's brother) has to go.
2) No workers are fired without Just Cause and without warning
3) No more racial slurs
4) A friendly, clean and safe work environment
5) Standardized breaks
6) Respect our right to unionize
The next day all the workers rode down to the shop in the bright orange pizza van. We gave each other high fives the whole way down to the shop. Shane arrived at work over 7 hours late and found his entire staff waiting for him, except for Jesus who was out on delivery. Once he walked through the door we confronted him with our list of demands.
Shane cut us off after demand #1 and said his brother was staying. Alex, who read the demands continued to the end of the list. Shane chuckled with his brother and refused to consider the workers' pleas for fairness. All the workers looked at each other and walked out the door. Immediately out side the shop Shane threatened to fire us, and pleaded with us to return to work. We stopped listening to Shane's threats and picked up picket signs expressing our outrage over his ownership practices.
All the workers had a fair amount of adrenaline in their veins at this point. Every worker stopped working at Pizza Time that day and the strike began.
After seven days of picketing, community support had brought Pizza Time's business to a trickle. The owners realized that they would not be able to operate the business successfully without meeting the workers' demands. Rather than establish fair working conditions, they chose to punish the workers and shut the place down. The striking workers vowed that they would continue their struggle until Pizza Time became socially responsible.
In July, five months after the struggle began, new owners took over the Olympia Pizza Time franchise. The workers hoped the new owners would be reasonable and meet with them to resolve the situation. The new owners refused to meet with the workers and denied any responsibility. They want to pretend the struggle never happened and they do not need to establish fair working conditions. We believe that we are justified and that the community in Olympia supports us in our struggle. We will continue our stand until fair working conditions are established.
For more information or to send us letters of support visit our website at http://olympiaworkers.org. If you are in the Olympia area, please join us on the picket line at 4th and Jefferson in downtown Olympia.
With love for justice and solidarity,
The Pizza Time Workers