Photo courtesy of SIKLAB Media.

Last July, protestors gathered at Journal Square’s Jollibee store following the supposed illegal termination of nine workers. They demanded all who were fired to be reinstated, a public apology from the corporation, better working conditions and protections for workers’ rights to organize. 

Against the odds of corporate pressure, campaigners reached a settlement with Jollibee that met all their demands including paying $84,600 in back pay and consequential damages. 

At odds with management

Tension between Jollibee employees and management began in 2022 when a group of workers started a letter-writing campaign to ask for a wage increase, holiday pay and better workplace conditions. The operation was an overwhelming success with more than 90% of the store’s workforce signing and supporting the cause, but after supervisors discovered their efforts, several employees were laid off because of supposed budgetary problems. 

The store hired 13 new workers within a month of these layoffs, according to the petitioners. It was finally enough for the former staff as they petitioned the National Labor Relations Board claiming the Filipino fried chicken store violated their worker’s rights and exercised unlawful labor practices.

Since then, community supporters and the fired employees formed the “Justice 4 Jollibee Workers” campaign staging multiple protests across New Jersey, including at the original Jersey City location.

Keyser A. Garganera was among the original workers fired from Jollibee and became one of the most outspoken advocates in this campaign. Garganera told Slice of Culture he was eager to persuade his coworkers to organize protests in hopes to continue with the movement.

“You fired us, but we came back,” Garganera said, who is now working at the Jersey City location again. 

These demonstrations culminated in a formal complaint from the National Labor Relations Board against the Philippine-based food chain to satisfy the campaign’s requests. Four of the nine terminated employees have returned to the job as a result and the store is required to make workers aware of their rights. 

While some of the original demands from the letter-writing efforts have yet to gain traction, such as securing holiday pay or increasing wages from minimum wage, Garganera said he is happy about the recent developments. He said conditions are different from before including cutting back on hours. The Jollibee workers were reportedly working full-time hours prior to the protests but still treated as part-time employees. 

Management is also said to be less present at Journal Square.

Garganera said the manager at Jollibee’s Hudson Commons is co-managing their store, so he is only around two to three days a week. One of the issues Justice 4 Jollibee fought against was abusive surveillance akin to bullying and mistreatment. With these successes under their belt, Garganera said he hopes this victory inspires other stores across New Jersey and in neighboring areas to pay back corporations what they owe. 

“I want them to know it is possible to win if you organize and also don’t lose hope,” Garganera said.

Maryland is now following the Jersey City chicken spot’s lead with Jollibee workers in Wheaton, MD sending a letter to management demanding double pay on holidays. Garganera said the problems and treatment they experienced are similar to what they are facing down south.

According to Justice 4 Jollibee, management has not responded to this petition, but has started conducting one-on-one interviews with workers, which the movement deem as “illegal retaliation.”

Garganera said there is a possibility of collaborating with their Maryland counterparts and could offer tips for this budding campaign. 

“Please don’t be scared, if you organize you will win. Let’s fight back,” said Garganera. 

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