Astoria Applebee’s employees protest against alleged racial discrimination, wage theft

Astoria Applebee’s employees protested against alleged racial discrimination and wage theft on Dec. 7. (Photo by Ethan Marshall)

Workers from an Applebee’s in Astoria teamed up with One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit that advocates on behalf of service workers earning a subminimum wage, to hold a protest against the restaurant chain and its parent company, Dine Brands Inc., on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

The protest was held at the Applebee’s located at 38-01 35th Ave. in response to several workers accusing the restaurant of racial discrimination, wage theft and retaliation for speaking up on the job. The protesters were also joined by State Senator John Liu, who supported the workers.

The workers, Liu and One Fair Wage Organizing Executive Juan Carlos Romero, entered the Applebee’s and attempted to give the restaurant’s general manager a letter signed by more than 30 current and former workers, which listed three demands. The demands were for immediate wage increases, the settlement of legal claims and setting a national policy of paying all workers in the company a full, livable minimum wage, with tips.

The general manager, who declined to speak with QNS, refused to accept the letter and demanded the protesters leave the restaurant.

According to One Fair Wage, Applebee’s has raised wages to recruit staff in predominantly white communities and maintained subminimum wages in communities of color. Dec. 6 marked the deadline set by the workers for the initial letter sent to the company. According to the initial letter, they intend to take the matter to the public and explore legal options. Romero said Dine Brands Inc. and Applebee’s had been unwilling to engage with them thus far.

“Today, we’re taking action by informing the community,” Romero said. “And we’re going to continue to escalate our tactics in order to get them to come to the table and talk to us, because these injustices are clearly stated on the letter that we delivered have not been met. Workers still have wages owed, folks are still being retaliated against and there’s a lot of injustices happening in terms of wage discrepancies and discrimination.”

Juan Carlos Romero giving out fliers to a passersby. (Photo by Ethan Marshall)

Shortly after leaving the establishment, Liu, Romero and the protesting Applebee’s workers began giving out fliers to passersby. There was at least one instance where their message discouraged a man from eating lunch at the restaurant, as he said he sympathized with the workers since he was a union member.

Photo by Ethan Marshall

A report by One Fair Wage released earlier this year a report detailing that Applebee’s staff members who work in Harlem and the Bronx earn on average $5 to $7 less per hour than those in Midtown Manhattan.

“I really think [the workers] are being treated unfairly by Applebee’s and Applebee’s should respond at the very minimum,” Liu said. “I’m supportive of One Fair Wage, meaning giving workers who have relied on tips for too long to make a living, a decent wage. Applebee’s should respond to their workers’ concerns and it appears that [the workers’] concerns are legitimate.”

QNS has reached out to Applebee’s for comment on the matter and is waiting for a response.