Fired Jollibee workers return to work, vow to continue to speak up

Reinstated Jollibee workers outside of Journal Square location: Keyser Garganera (left) and Yves Nibungco

Workers at Jollibee Journal Square branch who were illegally terminated were offered reinstatement by the fast food corporation following months of community pressure and a judgment from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Two of  the illegally terminated workers returned to work Monday, October 16th in the Jersey City location. They vowed to continue to pressure the corporation for their original demands prior to being let go: higher wages, holiday pay, and better working conditions.  

“I feel happy because we are coming back to Jollibee and also got the job in order to support my family,” said Keyser Garganera, one of the reinstated  workers. “This means we are one step closer to justice that we deserve. My message to other Jollibee workers: please organize and don’t let them silence your voice. Thank you everyone for the support. We’re really happy and this wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community.”

“Although we have full reinstatement, it does not mean the rampant workplace  issues will be brushed over. Jollibee’s offer was certainly needed and appreciated, but does not mean that our voices still won’t be heard…We have accomplished our goals, but it does not mean we will stop to speak for the unspoken,” said Patricia Bui, another one of the nine terminated workers who is returning to work.

“The reinstatement should be a big lesson learned,” said Jackelyn Mariano of the Mission to End Modern Slavery (MEMS), a community organization that has been supporting the Justice for Jollibee Workers’ campaign.

“For Jollibee’s management and corporate leaders, the lesson is that when they break labor laws, they will be held accountable. The workers cannot be exploited and abused as easily as Jollibee thought. For Jollibee workers, the lesson is that when they speak up and fight for their rights, they will win and they have nothing to be afraid of.”

On July 6th, former and current Jollibee workers, including five of the nine illegally terminated workers, launched the Justice for Jollibee Workers Campaign with a protest action at the Journal Square location calling for reinstatement, back pay, and a public apology.

Jollibee initially responded to the workers’ demands by arguing that they are experiencing financial difficulties, despite publicly announcing strong financial growth, alongside aggressive plans to open 500 stores in North America in the next five to seven years, adding to the over 6,300 stores across the globe. The Journal Square location is believed to have hired 13 workers to replace the nine workers, discrediting claims that the company is in financial trouble.

The NLRB brought charges against Honeybee Food Corporation, the North American owner of the Philippines-based Jollibee fast food restaurant for violating federal law. The U.S. federal labor agency found merit to the complaint made by the nine workers that they were illegally terminated in February after organizing a petition for higher wages and better working conditions. 

The complaint requires Jollibee to comply with the Journal Square workers’ demands, including reinstatement of the nine workers, back pay for wages lost due to termination, and a letter apologizing to the workers for their termination. Jollibee is set to testify in front of the NLRB in November, after urging the court to postpone the original October 11th hearing date. 

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