Fired employee had led fellow workers in a walk out
Carlos Hernandez, a 21-year-old community college student was fired from his job at a Subway sandwich shop franchise because, according to the owner of the franchise, Hasan Zeer, he gave a 66-cent cookie to a child for free.
Hernandez suspects he was fired for another reason. The Honduras native, who resides legally in the United States on a green card, led his fellow fast-food workers in a walk-out this past summer.
Recently, fast food workers nationwide have been staging short strikes in protest of low wages paid by the industry and often poor working conditions.
The movement peaked with a 58-city strike at the end of August, targeting a number of fast food chains including Subway, McDonald's, and Starbucks, among others.
Zeer alleges that Hernandez's labor movement activities had nothing to do with his dismissal, and that it was only the free cookie. “He worked for me two months after the first strike, and the second strike he worked a week and a half,” says Hasan Zeer. “It's nothing to do with that. All my employees who went on strike are still working with me.”
Hernandez admits to giving away the cookie, but also says that he had done it before, paying for the cookies with money from a tip jar. At the time,
Hernandez said, Zeer told him, “‘Wow, you are very good worker, you give very good customer service.'”
He did not reimburse the store for the cost of the cookie…
Hernandez admits that on the occasion he was fired, he did not reimburse the store for the cost of the cookie simply because the restaurant was extremely busy at the time.
When he was fired Hernandez told the store manager on duty he suspected the dismissal was related to his labor activities. The manager responded with,
“‘Yes, you shouldn't be against us.'”
Legally, most workers can be fired on an employer's whim, but they can't be fired for trying to join a union.
Working Washington, an advocacy group for fast food workers, has filed a complaint against Zeer and Subway. They allege that Hernandez was fired in retaliation for speaking to the press and for organizing his coworkers during the fast food strike. Attorneys expect a resolution by the end of October.