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Waffle House workers rally for better pay and safety

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Waffle House workers from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina picketed at the corporate offices this week. They're pushing for better pay and improved workplace safety measures, as Marlon Hyde of member station WABE in Atlanta reports.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) We're going to rock that Waffle House...

MARLON HYDE, BYLINE: Dozens of workers marched and chanted outside of Waffle House's corporate office in Norcross, Ga. They're asking the Georgia-based restaurant chain to improve pay and overall security. Gladys Wilson has worked at Waffle House for the last five years.

GLADYS WILSON: Some of us make 2.19. Some make 2.69. You got people that been there 20 years, and they only make $3 an hour.

HYDE: Many people on social media know Waffle House for the videos of fights during late-night shifts at their 24-hour restaurants. Wilson says some nights, she works in fear of being attacked.

WILSON: Our safety comes first. You trying to make a living, and you shouldn't have to die trying to make a living.

HYDE: They've gotten support from the recently formed Union of Southern Service Workers. It's not a union sanctioned by the Labor Relations Board. And Waffle House workers are not unionized or pay union dues. But the group wants to organize workers in Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina - all so-called right-to-work states where it's hard to join unions. Shae Parker is a member of the group.

SHAE PARKER: As we get more workers involved, whether it's Waffle House, McDonald's or warehouse, whatever, to know that they have a voice. They don't have to continue to just settle for less 'cause that's what we've been doing. We've been settling.

HYDE: The USSW is circling a petition demanding a $25 minimum wage and 24-hour security at the nearly 2,000 Waffle House restaurants, mainly in the South and along the East Coast. For its part, Waffle House had no comment on the group's demands, nor on the organizing efforts among some of its workers. For NPR News, I'm Marlon Hyde in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF J^P^N'S "STATURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marlon Hyde
Marlon, VPR News Fellow, graduated from Saint Michael’s College in 2021 with a degree in media studies, journalism and digital arts. Originally from Queens, New York, he comes from a family of storytellers
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