We Stood Up to Our Boss and Got All of Our Sick Time Back

Working for a Major Pizza Chain


By Alex Rickel



On the fourth Saturday of this new year, a majority of my coworkers and I threatened to go on strike if our sick time that we rightfully and lawfully earned wasn’t reinstated immediately. Utilizing the power of solidarity and collective action, we stood together and won back every hour of sick time owed to us by our new boss. A boss, who with misguided intentions, attempted to withhold from us, during the worst pandemic of our lifetime, the sick pay we had earned through our hard work and time dedicated to the company.


It is not uncommon, despite being against federal law, for an employer to take retaliatory action against one or several of their workers for talking and organizing amongst themselves in an attempt to better their workplace. It is precisely this reason as to why I will not be mentioning the true names of the other individuals involved in organizing and who were willing to participate in this collective action, nor will I reveal the exact identity of the national pizza chain or franchisee we are employed under. Despite these precautions, the accumulation of information displayed in this article will contain all of the details necessary to accurately and truthfully describe the events as they happened.


It is my sole intention in this life to champion the fight of the unheard, to make this world a better place for my fellow working class brothers and sisters who make everything around us possible yet see so little reward in return, and it is for this reason that I do not feel the need to conceal my personal identity. I boldly write these words hoping that I may agitate, that I may educate, and that I may encourage you to talk to your coworkers about organizing together and demanding better from your employer.


Throughout this article, I intend to further expand upon the strategies deployed and the insights gained by my coworkers and I during this most uncertain period of time at our workplace. If you and the folks you work with are also moved to action by the realization that our strength as workers lies in our numbers, and that anything is possible when you take back the power from your boss, then I sincerely hope our experience as workers here at [insert major pizza chain] may inspire you to persist onward toward success!


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This story begins roughly a month ago in late December of 2021 when our store was acquired by the franchisee of another location nearby. Many of us were optimistic at first; our previous employer was retiring after spending a majority of his life in the pizza game, and the prospect of working under a younger and supposedly ‘cooler’ boss was refreshing.


To all of us who must work in order to survive, it is clearly unjust that we as workers at a business have no say in or control over who our leader is, and, like cattle being bid on at auction, we have no power in deciding who we are sold off to next. Despite all of this, with regards to our circumstances at the time, this new boss was the best we could all reasonably hope for.


Our new master immediately came off as someone who was friendly, energetic, and would be easy to talk to as we got to know her more. Being that she is closer in age to the mean demographic of the store, most of us felt at ease with the transition from one overseer to another, and for the most part, everything appeared to be going relatively well.


While this was all happening, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to infect and take the lives of our friends, family, and other loved ones. It has been about 2 years since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s apparent that the worst is far from over. With the emergence of new and more viral COVID-19 variants, the uncertainty placed upon businesses and especially workers is almost too much to handle. This comes as no surprise to any of us who must regularly leave the comfort and safety of our homes so we may work our jobs, though it is certainly worth mentioning that we, working people, have undoubtedly been hit the hardest. Crushed between the rising costs of living and unnecessary wage stagnation, the working class has struggled to cope with the further economic hardships imposed on us by the pandemic


It is the hard-fought-for safety nets of ‘paid sick-time’ and ‘unemployment insurance’ that have kept so many Americans and their families afloat during this ever-worsening crisis. For countless Americans, including a large number of my coworkers and myself, these necessary life lines have been the sole decider in determining whether or not we’ll have enough money at the end of the month to pay our bills.


Earlier this month (January 2022), COVID swept through our store, as it does, infecting many of us and subsequently forcing our boss to close down the store for several days. For those of us wage slaves who fell ill, we were relieved by the fact that our previous boss had informed us employees that all of our sick time earned under him would transfer over and be usable under the new owner. There was no reason to worry, many of us thought. Most of us, myself included, had worked at this store for a respectable chunk of time before its acquisition by our current boss; almost all of us are friendly with each other, if not outright pals who hang out after work and in our free time. Even though we aren’t all ‘buddy buddy’ with each other, we are all able to communicate with one another. It was because of this open communication between us that several of us were made aware that our boss was telling each of us that our accrued sick time from our previous owner was not going to transfer over and she had ‘no legal obligation’ to give it to us.


To say we were enraged would be a gross misrepresentation of how many of us felt upon hearing this news. The sick time that we worked tirelessly for; in heavy rain and snow; working through seemingly endless weekend rushes; the sick time we had rightfully earned through our labor was being denied to us by our boss. We understood that what was happening to us was wrong, and we knew we had to do something about it immediately.


Several of us at the store, who were especially outraged by our overlord’s apathetic and cruel attitude towards the entire situation, began talking over the phone and by text, deciding upon what our next course of action would be. We really didn’t know what to do, though it was our collective anger that inspired us to want to do something- anything to get our sick time back.


Some of us had upwards of 70 hours of sick time saved up (prior to the new year), and we just couldn’t fathom the thought of losing it all.


After some much needed ‘venting’, those of us who were talking collectively decided it would be most wise to research the laws surrounding sick time in our state of Oregon. We had already come to the understanding that our sick time was rightfully ours, though it was this legal element that would surely give us the advantage to push our ultimate demand: getting every hour of sick time back for every employee to which it is owed.


"The minute I heard we weren't getting back our sick time, I went through the ORS law and started asking questions. I knew from the beginning it wasn't legal and the motive here was to save the company an extra dollar at my expense."
- Coworker #1

A handful of us who would go on to organize the subsequent events found very quickly online the state statute regarding sick time and its transfer under one owner to another. ORS 653.606, section 10, clearly and undeniably states,


“An employee retains accrued sick time if the employer sells, transfers or otherwise assigns the business or an interest in the business to another employer.”


I was baffled. Our boss had told several of us that she had no legal obligation to give us our sick time back despite the clear-cut wording of the law. Confirming that we were in the right, legally, gave many of us the reassurance we needed to keep pushing on to get our sick time back. We decided it was in our best interest to reach out to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) to confirm what we were reading indeed applied to our situation before we said anything further to the sole person who has the ability, and now motive, to fire us.


One of us reached out to BOLI and was met with the following email:



Upon reading this email, several of us immediately filled out and submitted complaints.


Still very much upset, we continued talking to our fellow disgruntled coworkers- bringing them up to speed on the information we had uncovered. It would be shortly after our complaints were submitted that our boss would start individually calling into her office, behind closed doors, several of us who initially voiced disapproval when told our sick time would not be returned.


Because we made it a priority to maintain open and strong communication amongst all of us workers, we were able to piece together that our boss was feeling the pressure from the state and she was going to further consult her lawyers- the very same lawyers who originally told her it was legal to withhold our sick time in the first place. In these one-on-one meetings, she made different claims to different people; some of us were told that she ‘couldn’t’ afford to pay all of us back our sick time, while others were also told that she would give as much as she could back to us because she ‘feels bad’. One of us was told that she didn’t have our past sick time records, while one of us was shown our records to confirm we had hardly any sick time to transfer over anyways. Others amongst us were enticed with the prospect that they could use their sick time accrued under her before the mandatory 90 days of employment had elapsed as long as they understood they weren’t getting the rest of their sick time back.


Ultimately, it was this lack of cooperation and respect from our boss that drove us to take this fight into our own hands and engage in direct action together. Our agreed upon plan became the following: we make our demands clear to her, and if she doesn’t meet them, then we’ll go on strike. Our primary demand continued to be the return of every hour of sick time to every employee, and we weren’t going to back down unless every aspect of this demand was met in full.


"The most challenging aspect, from my perspective, was organizing our coworkers - knowing who we could rely on and trust, and worrying about who could potentially slip up and talk to management."
- Coworker #2

I had previously made connections with some truly wonderful folks over at the Portland branch of the IWW, a labor union that has continued to tirelessly fight for the rights of working people everywhere for the better part of the last century. It was from our trustworthy allies at the Portland IWW that we learned our right to strike over ‘economic concessions’ without fear of retaliation from our capitalist master, was in fact legal under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Part 7 of the act protects your right to engage in collective bargaining action against your employer, and Part 8 of the same act makes it illegal for them to respond unfairly to you and your coworkers for showcasing your rights.



Now that we had collectively decided upon what course of action to take, those of us who were organizing this ‘march on our boss’ to deliver our demands methodically began preparing what we would say to her, when we were going to do this, and how we would ensure the support of at least a majority of the folks we work with. We concluded that it would be perfect to confront our boss during one of our busiest nights of the week: Saturday, and do so in a part of the store where wage slaves and customers alike could tune in to the conversation.


We wanted to put as much pressure as we could on her in the hopes that she would see conceding to our demands as the easier of the two choices; continuing to deny us our sick time would only hurt her profits and the business as a whole in the long run, and we had to effectively convey this to her. Additionally, taking into consideration that almost everyone is scheduled to work on Fridays, we reasoned that this would serve as the perfect opportunity to talk to all of our coworkers about what many of us were planning to do the following day.


Friday came, and we already knew that we had the support of nearly every delivery driver working on Saturday, as well as the support of several cooks integral to the store’s functionality also working that night. None of us were bluffing; if she continued to refuse to return what was stolen from us, then we were going to cripple her entire operation during one the busiest nightly rushes of the week. Again, it was our goal to make this fact exceptionally clear to her so she would simply just meet our demands. None of us wanted to walk off our jobs and go on strike, but we were all willing to do that if that’s what it took to get all of our sick time back. Radical circumstances often require radical solutions.


"Initially, I was quite nervous to confront our boss and felt as though it wouldn't do any good. I also thought that it would make me a target for retaliation in the future. Afterward, I felt empowered and incredibly proud of what we'd accomplished."
- Coworker #2

With a continued absence of transparency, our overseer began once again calling people back into her office during the dinner rush to discuss sick time matters behind closed doors. Every person who came out of that office, whether they were already onboard with our plan, on the fence, or just shocked and not knowing what to make of the situation- we spoke with every single person and asked what was being said to them. It was crucial in organizing this march on our boss that we communicated to all of our coworkers the knowledge we were uncovering from each other. We wanted to maintain an atmosphere of trust and confidence amongst our exploited workers for the purpose of encouraging them to open up to us, regardless of what had been said to them. As long as we were all on the same page in regards to what was being said and happening at our store, we could collectively make the best decisions for all of us workers moving forward.


Throughout the night, a good half of the store had been pulled into the office and talked to, and again, we were being relayed differing pieces of information by different people. Some of us were told we would be getting all of our sick time back; others were told they would be getting some of it back; others were not talked to at all and felt left in the dark, only to be made aware of the situation by their informative and empathetic coworkers. Enough was enough; we were sick of being forced to play this game of phone-tag with one another because our new capitalist master was unwilling to make a public announcement for the obvious reason that we were all being fed a different narrative.


Our coworkers, many of whom had previously been on the fence about threatening to go on strike over our sick time, were swayed towards the side of their fellow wage slaves by the utter confusion and frustration that arose from the events of that Friday night. Those of us who were organizing the walkout for the next day found it easy to connect with our coworkers who were ultimately experiencing the same emotions and feelings as us. We made sure that everyone we were talking to understood that we were all in this together, and as long as we all stuck together, we could and would get all of our sick time back.


We used the law; we used the fact that we had been stolen from; we used every rational justification we could make for why our peers should join us in our struggle. Our boss wants to take away your sick time; your coworkers want to help you get it back; we knew what we were doing was right and just, and all we had to do was convey that to our distressed comrades to obtain their support in the end. So, for the rest of the night, those of us on board with the proposed walkout continued to talk to our work friends. A wave of emotions had consumed me, and I used the raw and authentic passion drawn from these intense feelings to connect with everyone I had talked to that night. We were all going through the same struggle; I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were alone.


"When we originally found out we would not be getting our sick time, I was really angry. Not just because I'd earned those hours, but because I knew other employees were sick and would need to use the hours or face further economic hardship."
- Coworker #2

For the rest of the night, all of us organizing the event had our fair share of heartfelt conversations with each other and our other coworkers, and we were beginning to feel fairly confident about how the night had played out. We had shown the folks we work with honesty, transparency, and compassion when our employer would not. It was this common struggle that unified us, and it was this unity that would give us the courage and the strength to demand change from our boss. Amidst all of the confusion and frustration, the prospect of taking action against our capitalist master, and having our demands actualized brought many of us some much needed clarity and motivation.


Then came Saturday morning, and our situation was certainly looking better than it did 24 hours before. It was looking like we would have the support of a sizable majority of our coworkers scheduled, which was remarkable considering we estimated that we would need roughly half of the store on our side to make this walkout successful. All we needed now was to maintain the same levels of enthusiasm and motivation we had cultivated inside ourselves and our coworkers, and use these intense feelings to fuel our actions that day. Those of us who had been organizing this since the beginning were confident that as long as our fellow workers understood that all of us were standing firmly with them, then no one would feel the unexpected urge to back out.


When noon rolled around, one of us organizers texted our boss informing them that a group of us employees wanted to speak to her at about 4:30pm that day. This would give us enough time to talk to her before we were scheduled to work and before the dinner rush usually begins to pick up.


Our plan continued to develop throughout the day, and we made these changes known to all of our comrades as they were discussed, though the two most likely possibilities were the following: our demands are accepted and we hold her accountable in implementing them, or she rejects our demands and we go on strike like we said we would. Regardless of what outcome would greet us, we had prepared plans to address any and all hurdles we could reasonably expect to jump over; we were prepared for whatever was going to happen to us, and this continued to fuel our confidence and conviction throughout the whole ordeal, including the lead up to the actual moment we confronted our boss.


There wasn’t much need to prepare for if our demands were met; however, if they were shot down, we had made firm plans to stand out in front of our store for as long as it took to shut the place down for the night. We intended to strike up conversations with customers, prepared to inform them of all the unjust transgressions carried out against us while subsequently encouraging them to boycott this location. As more of our fellow exploited coworkers would show up to work, our plan was to convince any of them who were not already with us to join us on the picket line to stand up for what's right and ultimately there's. All of us were prepared to stand out in front of our store in near-freezing temperatures to talk to as many people as it took to make our collective voice heard by our exploiter. We were not going to be ignored, therefore we were prepared to make as much noise and as large of a scene as possible. If she wants to take away our sick time, then we will take away her profits; we have that power!


It was now 4:00pm, and those of us who were planning to be a part of the delegation speaking to our boss on behalf of us workers convened outside by our cars. I had written up a speech the day prior that I was to read to our employer outlining our demands, our reasoning behind making them, and what we would do if they were not met. I formulated this document with the assistance and wise counsel of my coworkers, and it’s because of this that I was confident in the words I was about to speak alongside my fellow workers.


We then proceeded to go inside, convening amongst ourselves one last time before our boss’s arrival. Spirits were high; we were all feeling confident in ourselves and our cause. We continued reminding one another that we had each other's backs regardless of what our master said to us, that nothing was going to break the solidarity and unity we had developed between us these last couple of days. Even as she pulled in, parked, and began walking towards us, we showed no fear or hesitancy, only courage.


Our boss walked into the store, approached us, and immediately suggested we all go outside to talk. In a respectful and calm tone, I simply replied, “No, we need to have this conversation somewhere where all of our coworkers can hear us.” She agreed, and that is when I read the following outloud,



My remarks were followed by several seconds of uneasy silence. The tension was broken when she spoke up to inform us the sick time we had earned under our previous master was indeed going to be returned to us.


The ensuing conversation consisted primarily of our capitalist employer attempting to refute the claims we were making against her. Amongst the four of us organizers who were confronting her, each of us had been told different narratives regarding our sick time, whereas I was never called back on either of those nights to be informed one way or another. We raised the issue that we should have never been talked to individually behind closed doors in the first place. We pressed her on if she was indeed being transparent and honest with us, then why couldn’t these announcements be made public for the entire store to hear? The secrecy and subsequent varying responses from our coworkers proved to us that she didn’t have our best interests at heart. This is specifically why we included the 4th and final demand, to ensure that going forward, everyone would be receiving the same information and ultimately be on the same page.


All of us spoke up at some point to rebuke our capitalist exploiter’s many baseless and insensitive claims. It was important that we all made our voices heard, and by approaching our master as a group, we were able to draw courage from the presence of our fellow workers standing shoulder to shoulder with us.


Our employer claimed that the law regarding the transfer of sick time from one owner to another was ambiguous. This law that states, “An employee retains accrued sick time if the employer sells, transfers or otherwise assigns the business or an interest in the business to another employer” is only ‘ambiguous’ if you’re a boss trying to screw over your workers who you think don’t know any better. We made it clear to her that we did indeed know better; we knew our rights, and clearly we weren’t afraid to use them.


She claimed our threat of walking out and going on strike was “severe”. We then made it abundantly clear that we were outraged that she was willing to take away our sick time during a pandemic and that any action to get it back was appropriate. Several of us continued to grill her on the fact that she was doing this not out of the kindness of her heart, but because she was feeling the pressure of both her employees and the state government. We all expressed that none of us wanted to have to do this, but we felt moved to action by what was happening to our sick time.


After some back and forth- our boss attempting to justify her initial reactions and us repeatedly reminding her that we are both right and on the side of the law in demanding our sick time back- our boss agreed to all of our terms. We had effectively stood up to our exploiter and had every single one of our demands met.


We were victorious, and it felt amazing.


As we were exiting the store, I loudly announced to our fellow workers that we had won all of our sick time back and that there would be no strike. Other than one lonely manager exclaiming that we were supposedly “getting our sick time back anyways”, the general consensus from the rest of the store appeared to be of approval for our actions. This manager would apologize later that night to several of us who organized the march on our boss, and after some lecturing by us, he seemed to have a better understanding as to why we chose to go this specific route in wanting our collective voice heard.


"Stand up to them [your boss] even if you feel too afraid. Put your foot down and don't let people push you around. it will build more character than showing up on time everyday to get taken advantage of by some shit boss who does not care about you."
- Coworker #1

We made our way outside towards our vehicles and expressed to each other how overcome with joy and relief we were. We then texted or called every one of our collaborators to let them know the outcome. To no surprise, we were met with further words of encouragement and celebration by our comrades and supporters who were thrilled to hear the outcome. Those of us who were about to clock on had this incredible mood-booster to help get us through the rest of our nights.


Our overseer stayed well after our conversation had concluded, yet when she left, there were no notices posted up around the store informing us of what she had just agreed to. A couple of us who had organized this display of defiance were closing that night anyway, so we concluded that our boss or one of her minions had until we close to put up these notices before we say or do anything in response.


The rest of the night went by with no problems or unnecessary interruptions. However, as we were preparing to close down for the night, ‘demand #4’ had still not been met. Because our master was unwilling to uphold this final demand which she agreed to infront of all of us, we reckoned it was in our best interests to take matters into our own hands once again.


After we had clocked out after a long, intense day at work, we hung up the following notices in two different places of the store,



It wouldn’t be until several days later that our boss would uphold this final demand of ours by posting a notice of her own. At the time of writing this, we are still waiting on our next pay stub to confirm that every single one of us has gotten back every hour of sick time. We are confident that after our display of power through the use of collective action, our owner will uphold this most important demand in order to avoid any further direct actions taken by us and to avoid an imminent loss of profits.


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The power of collective action should never be underestimated. If a group of us pizza shop workers can march up to our boss and successfully demand concessions from her, then so can you with whoever is currently exploiting your labor. Better wages are possible; a better work environment is possible; better scheduling is possible; anything is possible when you stand together and collectively demand better from the only person that currently has the means to give you what you so desperately need: your boss.


"Showing a store owner that workers stick together sends an important message. It prevents future situations where they can 'forget' about laws when we are informed and know how to exercise our rights."
- Coworker #1

It is an outright shame that the capitalist bosses of today, as many of us already know, show such little concern for the economic stability of their workers- the same workers who, without their existence, would make it impossible for this business and any other business to make a profit, let alone exist.


This is precisely why it is critical that we as workers engage in collective action with our coworkers anytime we deem it necessary to do so. Regardless of what your master tells you; regardless of what your naysaying coworkers tell you; it is never the wrong time to do the right thing. Standing up for your rights and the rights of your coworkers is never the wrong action to take, and no matter if you deliver pizzas or construct skyscrapers or do any sort of work in order to survive, you deserve to enjoy the full benefits from the fruits of your labor and nothing less.


May our struggle for the return of our sick time motivate you and your fellow tired, exploited, and discontented workers to take up the righteous cause of demanding back what is rightfully yours.


Labor is entitled to all of the wealth it creates, just as you are entitled to live a happy and fulfilling life. If your boss, the person with almost complete control over your life and your wellbeing, won’t give you the chance to live such a life, then they have left you with no other choice but to take it for yourself, by any means necessary.



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