Domino’s delivery workers hung tough at the 181st Street pizzeria, and the Washington Heights neighborhood — with many people with roots in the Dominican Republic — rallied to support the struggle to win back their jobs. Finally on Dec. 13, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman chastised management for illegally dismissing the workers and arranged an agreement that the Domino’s franchise would hire back the 25 workers whom it had pushed out Dec. 7.
What might appear as a local class battle had wider repercussions. The confrontation in Washington Heights arose from the Dec. 5 national fast food worker actions. On that day, 20 delivery workers left their job to participate in the workers’ rights march in the neighborhood and then another downtown at Foley Square.
These delivery workers are not even paid the national minimum hourly wage of $7.25, but only $5.65 an hour. Apparently as punishment for their labor activity, some were given extra shifts in the kitchen, where they couldn’t earn tips. When they complained, they were told to like it or leave. Two dozen left, and the boss kept them out when they returned the next day.
It was important to the national drive to organize fast food and other workers at low-paid jobs — for example, in the big retail chains like Walmart — that the popular struggle not permit the bosses to dismiss workers for their legitimate struggle to organize, to win a union and a higher minimum wage. Daily demonstrations began at the pizzeria. Neighborhood people and Dominican political organizations gathered in support, as did some unionists and local political leaders like City Councilperson Ydanis Rodriguez.
Workers World spoke with Larry Holmes, first secretary of Workers World Party and an activist with the People’s Power Assembly movement, who attended three of the daily protests at the pizzeria.
“Neighborhood support was growing,” said Holmes. “You could see it because each day the demonstration grew bigger. It was too important to this vital national organizing effort of workers in low-wage jobs to allow some boss to break all the labor laws and dismiss workers for exercising their labor rights.
“For the last few decades the capitalist class around the world has cut wages for all workers. Now many more workers of all ages, even in countries like the United States, are working at jobs that pay less than $15 an hour. The movement to fight for a $15 minimum wage, and even more important, to organize workers in the fast food and retail chains that unions used to think were impossible to organize, is now on the order of the day,” continued Holmes.
“This week alone, from Domino’s in Washington Heights to the workers in Haiti demanding $11 a day — that’s a day — minimum wage, to the strike by Amazon workers in Germany, the workers in these low-wage jobs are fighting back. And we in the working-class movement should do all we can to assist this struggle and make it grow,” Holmes concluded.
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