Employees also called on the chain to re-instate their colleagues who were suspended, saying it was retribution for workers who started a petition.
"We're tired of the fearmongering and the scare tactics, and it's not going to work on us," said server Emma Williamson.
The petition, signed by nearly 50 employees, demanded improved COVID-19 safety protocols, such as sick leave and hazard pay transparency. At least four of the employees were suspended, including former server and bartender Cameron Kerr.
"It just is really disappointing that after all of this, you know," Kerr said. "I've put in a lot of time and a lot of work there that I just get basically dismissed when I ask for what I think is a basic human right."
Via 313 management issued a statement in response, saying that the suspended employees "allegedly created a hostile work environment":
"No employees have been suspended or terminated for signing a petition that was submitted to the company. The employees who were suspended allegedly created a hostile work environment that made others feel unsafe. As a result, those employees have been suspended pending an internal investigation."
"We apparently used a via313staff at gmail.com to send a petition to our higher ups. And they, you know, made this whole claim about, well, that's intellectual property, copyright infringement sort of stuff," Kerr said. "So that was the basis of my suspension, allegedly, and I kind of decided, well, I don't want to work for a company is going to do this sort of thing, but I'm still out here trying to get what we initially asked for."
Kerr who made just 2.13 an hour without tips as a server and bartender, feels it's critical there's a plan in place for their former co-workers in the event of another shutdown or illness. "Yeah, if you're not here to make the money or do anything like that. Nothing. Nothing at all," he said.
The fully vaccinated St. Edwards University student was relying on work over Christmas break to boost their bank account, but when they got COVID-19, they found themselves scrambling to make January rent.
"It just became apparent if there's no financial safety net, what are many of us are going to do," Kerr said.
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