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The workers staged the walkout at an IHOP in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Photo: Siembra NC

A mostly undocumented workforce staged a walkout at an IHOP in North Carolina. They got their back pay

In total, the 19 workers received about $20,000 in back wages.

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A group of 19 workers, mostly undocumented immigrants, from an IHOP restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina recently received their back pay after staging a walkout. 

According to Juan Miranda, the organizing director of Siembra NC, they received about $20,000 in back wages on May 17. The workers had walked off their jobs at the restaurant on May 1. 

Miranda told Journal Now that after they received their back pay, most of the employees decided not to return to their jobs at the restaurant. Some found jobs elsewhere, while others are still looking for work. 

The restaurant is owned by a franchisee, Sun Holdings Inc. of Dallas. It has been experiencing reduced earnings after Sun Holdings bought the location and 40 other IHOP restaurants in October 2020 from another franchisee that went bankrupt in the Spring of 2020. 

“The problems with the payroll were chronic,” Miranda said. “There were late payments or no payments to these employees.”

“Some of these people had been there for a long time,” Miranda said of the employees who didn’t initially get their pay. “In the middle of the pandemic, it was hard to find other jobs.” 

@fluffflosss

ORIGINAL ACCOUNT WAS BANNED STILL HAVENT HEARD A WORD FROM @ihop HELP ROSITA GET PAID TAG THEM

  original sound - fluffflosss

In a statement, Siembra NC showed a video from one of the employees, Rosa Gonzalez, that went viral on TikTok on May 1. 

Her co-worker, Vanessa Becerril, posted a video showing a group of IHOP employees walking out of the kitchen in the middle of their shift after the district manager refused to pay Rosa for the 80 hours of work she was owed. 

In less than 48 hours, Becerril’s video had received millions of views and public demands that Gonzalez be paid were being posted all over the restaurant’s social media accounts. 

A week later, through the support of Siembra NC and community allies, the rest of the workers marched together to the store to collect their paychecks, including money they were denied from previous months. 

Gonzalez, 34, said she began working for the IHOP restaurant in October 2020 when it reopened. From the start, she said that there were constant issues with payment. 

“Checks were always late. My first check didn’t come until two months later,” she said.

Gonzalez also said there was one month no one got paid at all, and no excuses or explanations were given to the employees.

“They just told me that they were not going to pay me even though they knew about my status and had told me to work that entire month,” she said.

If the restaurant utilized the E-Verify system, they would have learned that the majority of their employees are undocumented and didn’t have social security numbers. 

Miranda told Journal Now they were “trying to get away with it” by not paying many of the workers, assuming that they would not complain or object. 

Siembra NC said that this form of wage theft violates North Carolina’s labor laws. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor told Journal Now that when an employer fails to pay its employees, a violation of federal labor law has occurred. 

Gonzalez is now committed to making sure that this type of treatment of immigrant workers does not continue. 

“Having my coworkers stand with me was incredibly empowering and I hope other people that go through the same know they can speak up too because they have rights,” she said. 

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