Cinnabon workers protest franchise store ban on Pride flags, buttons – Daily News

on Aug5
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Cinnabon workers at Northridge Fashion Center and several other Cinnabon locations staged a walkout and rally Friday, Aug. 4 to protest a new policy that bans employees from displaying Pride flags, buttons or other decorations.

Clad in red T-shirts bearing the slogan “Fast Food Workers Unidos (Unite),” the store’s 15 cooks and cashiers marched throughout the fashion center’s food court chanting, “What do we want? Justice!” and “We’re gonna’ keep fighting until our demands are heard!”

They were supported by members of Fight For $15, an organization that’s seeking to boost wages and improve working conditions for fast-food employees.

Text messages

The walkout, which runs through Sunday, was fueled by a recent series of text messages sent out by Greg Reheis, vice president of operations for 13th Floor/Pilot LLC, the franchise that owns more than 15 Cinnabon stores, including the Northridge location.

“If any store [is] displaying a Pride flag,” Reheis wrote in a company-wide message, “it is to be taken down IMMEDIATELY!”

Reheis justified the policy by saying the company doesn’t “discriminate or celebrate any particular race, ethnic group, gender-specific group, religious group or anything else.”

Workers dispute that claim, noting that Cinnabon frequently celebrates specific groups with promotional celebrations for Father’s Day, Easter and Christmas. Under Cinnabon’s franchise agreement, they said, individual franchisees don’t have the right to opt out of such promotional celebrations.

Representatives with 13th Floor/Pilot LLC could not be reached for comment. The franchise owns additional Cinnabon stores in Riverside, Moreno Valley, Montclair, Universal City, Modesto and San Jose.

In an Aug. 1 complaint filed with the California Civil Rights Department, Cinnabon employees said they’re seeking “immediate protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”

And the heat …

Workers at the Northridge store say they’ve also endured sweltering conditions during the recent heat wave because the store’s air conditioning system is broken. They allege the temperature has hit 94 degrees, causing some employees to experience migraines, excessive sweating, nosebleeds and dizziness.

Cinnabon employee Vero Aguilar, right, is a member of the LGBTQ community. She said Cinnabon’s new policy makes her “not feel comfortable in my own skin.” She was among the 15 cooks and cashiers at the Cinnabon store at Northridge Fashion Center who walked off the job Friday. The walkout runs through Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Fight For $15)

Vero Aguilar, who has worked at the Northridge location for nearly two years, is a lesbian and a member of the LGBTQ community. Aguilar said she was infuriated when she read Reheis’ messages.

“It made me not feel comfortable in my own skin,” the 30-year-old Pacoima resident said. “It was the most uncomfortable I’ve felt since 2011 when I first came out. I was terrified about coming out then … worried about being kicked out of the house.”

Aguilar said her parents and extended family in Mexico are supportive and have accepted her. But Cinnabon, she said, has “ripped all of that away.”

“It’s like a sledgehammer through a brick wall,” she said. “It’s made me feel like Cinnabon doesn’t have my back.”

The complaint says LGBTQ employees feel “inferior, unwelcomed, attacked, hurt, humiliated and unsafe.”

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