Popeyes’ Workers Protest Unsafe Conditions
Burst pipes, no heat make work dangerous at two area restaurants, they charge.
Popeyes‘ workers joined forces with Fight for $15 and a Union members and other community organizations Tuesday afternoon to protest unsafe working conditions at two Milwaukee locations for the chicken-focused fast food restaurant.
The protest took place in front of the Popeyes at 2910 W. Capitol Dr., where former employees say they were fired due to unwillingness to work inside the building, which has been without heat for several weeks, they charge.
“Popeyes has told workers to come into work when it’s below zero weather, there isn’t any working heat inside the store, and water and ice is everywhere,” said Angela Whitelow, a shift lead at Popeyes. “When workers spoke up about the dangerous conditions and went on strike, we were fired. As a single parent, it’s scary and frustrating to go weeks without a paycheck.”
Whitelow was joined at the demonstration by several fellow Popeye’s workers as well as representatives from the Fight for $15 movement, SEIU Healthcare and Voces de la Frontera. Together, they numbered approximately 17 people.
Following an initial demonstration on Dec. 28, the Milwaukee Health Department issued temporary closing orders for the two Popeyes locations. The restaurants were required to fix all violations before Jan. 11 and receive a complete inspection before reopening.
Zubha Pop Foods LLC, the operator of both locations, reopened the stores on January 13, according to a news release.
Prior to the closures, Whitelow said many workers wore winter hats, gloves and coats while working due to frigid temperatures inside the building.
“Shut it down,” she said. “Nobody should have to work in a place that’s not safe.”
Several workers, including Whitelow, have not been on the schedule since the store’s closure in late December, and believe they were terminated in retaliation for speaking up about the working conditions at the restaurant.
At Tuesday’s demonstration, workers demanded a voice in reporting dangerous working conditions and that imminent dangers be fixed within 24 hours of notifying Popeyes. Workers who have been fired demanded that they be reinstated in their positions and receive back pay for the days the stores were closed.
The restaurant kept its doors locked for the duration of the protest, operating only via a drive-thru window. After the speakers finished, Fox said she planned to temporarily block the driveway with her car, inviting others to do the same.
“If you’re standing in solidarity with me, come join me,” she said.
As protesters were heading to their cars, an Milwaukee Police squad car arrived at the scene, telling the group that Popeyes employees had called them to investigate the protest.
The two officers spoke briefly with the organizers and departed after several minutes.
Tuesday’s protest was the fourth planned within several weeks. And there’s more to come.
“We’ll be back,” Fox said.
Amin Dhanani of Dhanani Group Inc. is the licensee for all of Milwaukee’s Popeyes restaurants. Attempts by Urban Milwaukee to contact him were unsuccessful.
Dhanani Group, a Popeyes franchise owner since 2011, is listed as the world’s largest QSR franchisee for Popeyes, owning more than 150 restaurants in the US..
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