Militant Journalism

Columbia, S.C., pizza workers on strike against racism, poverty wages

On Aug. 12, fast food workers at MOD Pizza in Columbia, South Carolina, walked off the job at 5 p.m. — beginning a seven day strike to demand an end to racial discrimination, unfair scheduling, poverty wages and disrespect from management.

In the middle of a dinner rush, striking workers packed the lobby of the store, waving signs with their demands and chanting, “MOD Pizza, you’re no good! Treat your workers like you should!” before rallying on the sidewalk in front of the store. They were joined by community supporters and fellow members of Raise Up The South.

Workers have been raising these long-standing grievances for weeks with MOD pizza. On July 26, workers delivered a petition to management signed by nine workers at the store, which read:

We, the undersigned workers at MOD Pizza, are standing together to demand better working conditions, higher wages, and dignity and respect on the job. Therefore, we demand:

  1. A $15 hour minimum wage for ALL workers.
  2. Fair Scheduling and 30 guaranteed hours every week.
  3. Respect from management and an end to racism and favoritism in the workplace.

Workers were given promises of improvement from MOD Pizza management, but after weeks of meeting with management in which they raised their concerns, workers had seen no action and decided to strike. MOD Pizza advertises itself as a progressive and inclusive employer, but workers tell a different story of their day-to-day lives working at the company.

Liberation photo

“We are tired of the abuse and the degradation every time we come into work. Management is very disrespectful towards workers of color. I’ve watched our general manager yell at my coworker for studying, while her white counterpart is allowed to do school assignments at work. The only difference between them is their skin color. White workers get leeway from management while Black workers get constant disrespect,” said Rae Evans, a MOD Pizza worker who rallied outside the store Aug. 12. “The issue is management and we demand MOD Pizza fix what’s broken.”

At least one worker at the store is planning to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This isn’t the first time MOD Pizza has faced complaints of racial discrimination. The company is currently facing a racial discrimination lawsuit involving Trinity Campbell, a Black woman who says she was repeatedly called the N-word by white supervisors while she worked at MOD Pizza and was forced to quit due to unfair treatment. She received no response from the company when she reported these incidents.

On top of facing racial discrimination and disrespect from management, workers also say poverty wages and unfair scheduling are major reasons for going on strike.

“MOD Pizza hired me as full time and promised me 30 to 40 hours. But they only schedule me for about eight hours per week. I’ve asked for more hours — I can’t survive like this, making only $10 an hour — but management keeps hiring more people and giving us a few hours each,” said Naomi Harris, one of the workers who walked off the job. “If I just quit, it’s going to stay the same in the store. But if I speak up and get a union started, then it will be better for whoever comes in after me.”

The company, which is described by co-founder Ally Svenson as being “unapologetically for-profit,” has not responded to any requests for comment about its alleged practices of racial discrimination or poverty wages.

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