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When Management Threatened to Call ICE, Jack in the Box Workers Fought Back

Jack in the Box workers in Folsom, California organized rallies last week to protest wage theft, long shifts without meal breaks, and management’s threats to call ICE on workers who are organizing for better conditions.

Molly Rosenzweig

October 18, 2021
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Jack in the Box workers and supporters march outside their workplace in Folsom, California to protest wage theft, grueling conditions, and management's threats to call ICE on anyone who questions management. (HECTOR AMEZCUA)

Jack in the Box workers in Folsom, California organized rallies on Thursday and Friday, with workers standing outside the store and forcing management to temporarily close down operations.

These workers were protesting wage theft, mistreatment at the job, and the lack of meal breaks. The final straw was when management threatened to call ICE on workers who were complaining about the terrible conditions at the restaurant.

Crystal Orozco, one of the workers at Jack In The Box said, “When they found out we were organizing to do the protest and fight for our rights, they went and threatened all the co-workers, saying they were going to call immigration on them.” Orozco has worked at Jack in the Box for 10 years and is currently organizing for a $15 minimum wage and a union. 

The workers held a rally outside of their workplace on October 15, holding a banner that read “Jack in the Box, Pay your workers!” 

Working Conditions

Workers are speaking out against grueling work schedules and conditions. “They’re manipulating the schedule, as well as the time sheets to show that we are taking our breaks, when, in fact, we’re not,” Orozco explained. She and other workers described how they are either not paid for breaks, or forced to work long shifts without a single break. Orozco further explained how many workers are afraid to speak up because they are afraid to lose their jobs. Many of them are single parents struggling to make ends meet on very low wages. 

The workers also denounced how the bosses manipulated the schedule to not pay workers overtime. “I would look at my paycheck and see it was short, they would just tell me that everything was there in the paycheck,” Maria Hernandez, a worker at Jack and the Box said.  “Right now, it’s really hard working here, forcing us to do things we don’t want to do…they’re scaring us, they’re threatening us. And then they want us to go back to work for them and obey them.”

Meanwhile, even faced with these deplorable conditions, workers continued to work without adequate protections against Covid-19. They explained that workers who were exposed to Covid-19 but who had not yet received a negative test were forced back into the workplace, endangering the entire staff. “They’re putting everyone at risk,” Orozco said. “They showed no concern about our safety and our health, nor for our families who we have to go home to afterwards.”

Using ICE to Break Labor Organizing 

When workers complained, Jack in the Box management threatened to call ICE on the organizing effort. It is a tactic that bosses use in workplaces all over the country: the threat of deportation is used to discipline workers into silence. 

What is unique about this Folsom Jack in the Box is that instead of silence, however, the workers reacted by speaking out and organizing a protest, refusing to be intimidated. 

The conditions at the Folsom Jack In The Box highlight how hyper-exploitative labor conditions are maintained not only by the “invisible hand” of the labor market, but also by the coercive and repressive hand of the police and border control agents. It highlights that the cops and the border agents are at the service of the capitalists, called in to break up organizing efforts. 

It also shows, once again, that xenophobia is a tool of the bosses to divide workers, drive down wages and union bust — it is a weapon used against the working class. What workers need is solidarity that is driven by a profound understanding that the fate of the entire working class, documented and undocumented alike, are intertwined.

The Folsom Jack in the Box struggle is a prime example of this.

These workers are showing the way forward for similar struggles across the country. Their solidarity mirrors that of Kellog’s workers who are fighting together against the two-tier wage system, which is often organized along racial lines. This type of solidarity is crucial, not only for winning demands in individual workplaces, but for expanding the struggle to other workplaces and uniting workers behind the issues that the bosses use to divide them.

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