- Workers at a Columbia, South Carolina, Waffle House went on strike Saturday over store safety, meal deductions and issues with the physical upkeep of the store, according to the Union of Southern Service Workers’ Instagram account.
- The workers delivered a petition to their management, a tactic known as a “march on the boss,” then walked out on Saturday. The strike, accompanied by demonstrations by workers and allied labor activists, is set to last three days, The Post and Courier reported.
- The USSW formed in late 2022 as a strategic escalation by chapters of the Fight for $15 and a Union movement in the South, with the aim of organizing low-wage service workers across multiple industries in Southern cities, Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees’ International Union, told Restaurant Dive earlier this year.
The strike’s major demands included a security guard for the location during all shifts and an end to automatic meal deductions. One worker, in a video shared by the USSW’s instagram account, said the company deducts meal pay from workers pay even if employees are unable to eat a meal on their shifts. A sign visible in a photo of the strike claims the deduction is about $3.15 per shift.
One worker, Naomi Harris, highlighted the safety issues faced by fast food workers in an Instagram video. During one shift, a customer who was upset over receiving hashbrowns rather than grits, went to his truck to get a gun, Harris said. Other customers have thrown items at Waffle House staff, Harris said.
“We work at Waffle House, we should not be prepared to go to Waffle House and be like ‘dang, I might not make it home,’” Harris said.
Worker safety in the face of customer threats has emerged as a key demand among foodservice workers, especially in the South. Starbucks Workers United members have told Restaurant Dive that customer racism, harassment and threats of violence, combined with a lack of managerial response, pushed them to organize. Customer hostility that increased during the COVID-19 pandemic pushed some workers out of the industry entirely.
Limited-duration strikes have been a key tool in the Fight for $15 campaign in the last decade, and with the USSW’s commitment to “building our union by any means necessary,” such confrontational tactics may become more common in Southern service workplaces if the union experiences growth.
"Waffle House is proud of its long record of effectively addressing any concerns our Associates report to us. We intend to do that directly with our Associates,” Waffle House said in a statement emailed to Restaurant Dive.