Jollibee workers protest termination allegedly after attempting to demand higher wages

Workers hold protest on July 6 which is National Fried Chicken Day. Photos: Justice for Jollibee Workers

Former Jollibee workers protested at popular Filipino fast food restaurant in the Journal Square location in Jersey City, New Jersey, claiming they have been terminated for organizing “for higher wages and a fairer workplace.”

Workers delivered a letter to management demanding reinstatement and backpay. This is the first-ever worker protest in a Jollibee location in North America.

The dismissed Jollibee workers aired their grievances in a statement.

“I trusted that a big company like Jollibee who… is loved and supported and seen as a representation of… back home to many Filipinos would be a place that value workers and their rights,” said Mary Taino. “Jollibee keeps on getting bigger and richer but at the expense of workers. They need to stop with their lies and give dignity to workers’ rights towards equal pay across locations.”

Vincent Cruz, another former worker, said, “[After we were laid off,] my respect for Jollibee was gone because of what they did to me. I got depressed and isolated… while my co-workers were struggling with their jobs due to increased workload. They needed us like we needed them. For all fellow workers who have experienced or currently experiencing similar struggles, we want you to be brave and take action. We hope that you will join us. Let us unite as Jollibee workers.”

Keyser Garganera said, “It is disheartening to witness the abuse of power and the suppression of those who dare to stand up for what is right…We do our jobs right and we received this– getting laid off because we want a better workplace, holiday pay, and a $3 wage increase to support ourselves and our families.”

Placards voice their grievances: ‘No jolly in Jollibee.’

Jollibee management refused to  give a statement when reached by The FilAm. Area Manager Merle Caleon said through an employee with a South Asian accent, “We’re not authorized to comment.” The same employee said branch manager Rose Francisco does not work for the Journal Square branch anymore.

The protest rally happened on July 6 which is  National Fried Chicken Day, one of the busiest days of the year for Jollibee. Many of the workers reported “increasingly dangerous working conditions and alleged maltreatment from management.” 

The action occurred a week after the workers filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Jollibee, following  the February 20th termination of nine employees in retaliation for their “organizing efforts demanding higher wages and better working conditions.”

Jollibee workers in the United States, the Philippines, and across the globe have reported labor issues such as wage theft, chronic understaffing and scheduling issues, misclassification of workers, and worker mistreatment despite the company making record profits. Jollibee workers at the Jersey City location said they experienced similar labor issues, prompting them to organize for better working conditions, only to be met allegedly with surveillance, harassment, and eventual termination by management. 

According to its website, Jollibee has 69 locations in the United States, four located in New Jersey and five in New York. California has the biggest number with 31 stores. A 2021 press statement says Jollibee is “plotting a North American takeover.” — Cristina DC Pastor

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