Georgia Waffle House workers strike over mandatory 'meal credit' deductions

(Courtesy: Service Employees International Union)

Georgia Waffle House workers hit the picket line on Monday to call for better working conditions, pay raises, and an end to a company "meal credit" policy.

In a statement, the Union of Southern Service Workers and metro Atlanta Waffle House employees said that the company deducts at least $3 from workers' pay every shift for the credit, no matter if the employee has a meal or not.

The union estimated the nationwide policy could total nearly $30 million deducted from workers annually.

"If Waffle House thinks they can keep getting away with docking our pay for meals we don’t eat, they clearly don’t understand the power we’ve built in our union," said Cindy Smith, a worker at an Atlanta-area Waffle House. "We show up every day and work hard for as little as $2.90/hr before tips, so losing $3 every shift does real damage. We’re fed up, and we’re going on strike to demand that Waffle House end this policy across the country, listen to us and make changes that will keep us safe on the job and help us provide for our families."

So far, about 13,000 workers have signed a petition to the U.S. Department of Labor demanding the federal government investigate the meal credit policy.

(Courtesy: Service Employees International Union)

The day-long strike follows several recent protests in the Atlanta area over safety measures at work and fair wages.

The urgency of their cause is accentuated by ongoing discussions among Waffle House workers about safety concerns, particularly those faced during natural disasters like hurricanes, as highlighted by workers in Atlanta.

Workers are also asking for a $25 an hour minimum wage, and security at all restaurants.