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Your Sandwich, My Salary: Homegrown Employees Initiate Strike Over Unmet Demands

By Marian Mohamed

Edited by Dash Pinck

On Sept. 14, Homegrown employees march up and down the pavement as they chant, ‘If we don’t get our contract, you don’t get your sandwich.’ (Photo/Dash Pinck)

On Sep. 14, a sandwich shop residing in Queen Anne was closed for business as employees of Homegrown marched and chanted in unison outside the restaurant well into the afternoon. It wasn’t the only location closed for the day; six Homegrown restaurants were also closed and strikes went on until Sep. 16. Employees at each sandwich shop marched with a common goal.

The strike has mainly focused on two matters since the campaign's fruition in 2022. The first includes affordable healthcare packages for employees and a safety net placed around the workers union and individual employee contracts are protected if Homegrown CEO Brad Gillis sells the whole or parts of the company, according to Emily Minkys, Picket and Shift Leader at the Queen Anne Homegrown restaurant.

“We want to have a good workplace and a good working environment,” said Minkys. “[We want] a place where people want to work. Where turnover rates aren’t extremely high and people don’t quit because they can’t breathe.

Minkus further explains that employees have found it difficult to breathe, especially those who have breathing problems or asthma, due to the air quality being harmful as they cook and serve customers throughout the day. The shift leader emphasizes that their coworkers and herself are at a breaking point and that picketing outside the restaurant is necessary to meet their demands.

The strike began early morning and into the afternoon with employees consistently marching. (Photo/Dash Pinck)

Protester and coworker of Minkus, Megan Krupka, further highlights that temperatures in the restaurant reach over 90 degrees during the summer time and hazard pay for those affected wasn’t provided.

During bargaining sessions, the unions' proposal for an employee healthcare package would be the corporation offering $150 a month, according to Minkus. She states that the reaction from the corporation has been a rejection of that proposal being unachievable to meet for each employee when considering employees with spouses and family members included, which would increase the amount that Homegrown would have to meet.

“I can’t afford [health] insurance through our store right now,” said Krupka. “Once we found out that one, the amount of people that can’t afford insurance through our store and two, there’s people with families [who] can’t afford healthcare. Once we realized that like, wow, this is a big deal.”

GZR News has reached out to Homegrown for a response about the restaurant-wide strike and we haven’t received a response yet.

Throughout the years, coworkers from the same or different shops would connect over their shared hardship, according to Krupka. They soon realized that, by working together, they fought the mistreatment they were consistently facing.

An employee plays a beat that supports the chants employees repeat throughout the day. (Photo/Dash Pinck)

Along with affordable healthcare and union security, fair wages have been at the forefront of the union’s campaign. While shifting through her old pay stubs from 2019, Krupka discovered she was being paid under the local $15 minimum wage.

When discussing with her coworkers about her discovery, Krupka found out that a male coworker was earning more than his female coworkers. Despite the fact that each female employee worked at the restaurant longer than that male coworker. This, along with years of witnessing the mistreatment of her coworkers and experiencing that kind of mistreatment herself, fueled Krupka to join the picket line.

Homegrown employees smile towards the camera, with some holding their picket sign that states ‘Homegrown Workers On Strike.” (Photo/Dash Pinck)

The support from local union groups such as the Asian Pacific Islander American Labor Alliance (APALA) has been a vital source for the employees on strike. The relationship between these local groups allows for a communion of stability and myriad resources for Homegrown employees, according to Minkus.

“No matter what happens, my coworkers are going to keep fighting every single one of us from every store,” said Minkus. “We’re not going to stop until we get this contract.”


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