A 21-year-old community college student in Seattle was fired from his job at a Subway sandwich shop franchise because, he says the owner told him, he gave a cookie to a child for free — even though he often gave cookies to kids and the owner praised him for it.
But Carlos Hernandez suspects that he got the axe for another reason. The Honduras native, who resides legally in the United States on a green card, helped organize his fellow fast-food workers to go on strike, twice.
Starting last November, fast food workers nationwide have been staging short strikes to protest low wages paid by the industry as well as the often poor working conditions. The movement peaked with a 58-city strike on August 29, targeting a number of fast food chains including Subway, as well as McDonald’s and the coffee chain Starbucks among others.
The owner of the Seattle Subway franchise where Hernandez (pictured) worked told Seattle TV station KIRO that the employee’s labor activities had nothing to do with his dismissal. 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," said franchise owner Hasan Zeer. "It's nothing to do with that. All my employees who went on strike are still working with me."
Hernandez admits giving away the cookie. He said 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.'"
Single Subway cookies go for less than one dollar. 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.
Hernandez said that when he told the store manager in duty when he was fired that he suspected the dismissal was related to his labor activities, the manager told him, “‘Yes, you shouldn’t be against us.’”
Working Washington, an advocacy group for fas food workers, has filed a complaint against Zeer and Subway. Attorneys expect a resolution by the end of October.
Hernandez was also fired from a Chipotle fast food restaurant in Seattle, he says, when he pushed for better worker pay. At the time, he says, he was told he was canned for a bad attitude.
SOURCES: Salon.com, KIRO TV