Interview: María Jesús, union delegate at Domino’s Pizza in Granada

Mobilization for Maria Jesus in Grenada. (Photo: CCOO, Grenada)

In Granada, in the Spanish state, union workers at Domino’s Pizza are waging a fight against the company for better pay and hours. Domino’s is a multi-billion-dollar international corporation that can afford to give its employees a livable wage and consistent hours.

Using the excuse of poor work performance due to failing health, María Jesús was fired by the management of Domino’s Pizza in Granada. In reality, the company fired her for union activity with the hotel and restaurant section of the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO). On June 25, a series of demonstrations and actions began in Granada at different Domino’s stores as part of the campaign to denounce the company and win her job back.

In contrast, in 2012, the “Fight for $15 and A Union” campaign kicked off in the U.S. to confront inequality and exploitation in the fast-food industry. In the past eight years, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has put a lot of resources into coordinating actions and building a movement. Thousands of fast food workers have marched in the streets demanding more money in their paychecks and the ability to live a dignified life.

Yet union recognition is still out of reach for the U.S. workers. Why? Because the movement has been largely channeled and focused on convincing politicians to pass pro-worker legislation. This has led merely to a slow build-up of very modest reforms. What would fundamentally change the lives of a majority of fast-food workers and all low-wage workers? Union recognition. Union recognition is a key factor in order to build on success and give confidence to workers.

Being a member of a fighting union can transform a worker’s life, as this recent interview with María Jesús conducted by Izquierda Anticapitalista Revolucionaria (IZAR) will show:

Can you describe the situation of job insecurity suffered by pizza delivery workers?

The precarious situation that we as Domino’s Pizza workers suffer is basically due to two reasons. On the one hand, the base salary, and on the other, the type of contracts. The hourly wage of the base employees (delivery persons and interior staff) barely reaches the SMI (minimum wage). In the 2019 wage increase, several items were absorbed as variables. The management teams do not have a much better salary than the workers. Managers start from a minimum base pay, with a series of bonuses that have goals set by the company. These goals are often unattainable unless you have a brutal workload.

In fact, I think that this type of bonus, in which no one explains how the goals have been decided, should disappear. Instead, workers and managers should have a higher base salary. They should always know what that salary is in order to be able to plan their life.

The second point is the types of base contracts for personnel. They have annual flexible working days with a fairly high percentage of extra hours without additional pay. What does this mean? Contracts are for “X” hours per year and are flexible month to month. You can work 40 hours one month and the next month work 100 hours. The only condition is that at the end of the year you have worked those contracted hours. There is no fixed salary that allows you to plan your life, any expenses, or if problems arise, as is the case of the delivery person when their motorcycle breaks. Your hours, and therefore your salary, are subject to sales and a concept that I deeply detest: productivity.

In addition, the schedules are usually in two-hour shifts, so imagine how much time you really dedicate to work to get to do a minimum number of hours. Also take into account that the minimum contract is 660 hours per year.

And if we look a little further, what is the situation of the union agreement with the (fast-food) industry, and what is the situation with negotiations?

We are now in full negotiation of the union agreement and we have been like this for a few months. There are quite a few points to improve on, but let’s say that the basic ones are raising the minimum pay to 14,000 euros [roughly $15,500 U.S.], regularization of salary tables by professional category, moving from a flexible monthly working day, and regularization of vacations and transfers (this point is very interesting as it is used and justified). There are many more points that we are managing through a platform of conciliation (arbitration), EPIS (protective gear), and equality. … Actually, the current agreement has a lot of room for improvement and we have to fight to get the most points.

Concretely, why has the management of the company decided to fire you?

As for my dismissal—well, 20 years ago in February, I started working at the company and went from being a highly regarded employee to being a nefarious worker who had no place in the company store. During these years we have won many victories both individually, since my position is store manager, and at the level of the entire team. Furthermore, I have trained personnel who have even become my superiors.

How did this happen? Well, for me it really started as a personal issue that came up after quite a few years of enduring and accepting the pressure to hit the goals. I always listened to superiors and accepted what had to be done to achieve the goals. And that had an impact on my health. I began to wonder why I was working like this and whom I was working for. And that day changed my approach to work and what I expected of it.

Not that I was a great contender for the truth, but I did show that I was no longer following the blind path marked out by the company. And that didn’t go down so well. It had such an impact on my health that I took a leave of absence for a year. This helped me to start recovering (I’m still in the process), and as I’ve said before, I had to deprogram myself. I don’t have to feel the pain of the company. I don’t have to do what they say if they don’t pay for it. Even if I am paid and I disagree with what they ask, my coworkers and I won’t do it.

This process had a lot to do with my participation in trade-union activities. I see that what happens in my company is neither unique nor special. What happens here is a reality for most workers. The solution is not to change jobs but to change the situation at work. With this new approach I returned to work, although the company didn’t give me much time to put it into practice. In short, I became a trade unionist and stopped being the comfortable, well-off manager. That doesn’t feel good anymore.

On a more personal level, how has this situation affected you?

On a personal level I’m quite surprised at how I’m handling the situation; it was much harder when I started my leave. The dismissal was expected, and it was partly a relief because I know for sure what I am facing. And I plan to fight for my job. I don’t know if I’ll change my mind in time, but today it’s the only option I have, and the union work we’re doing helps me to understand it more clearly. In this state of calm on a personal level, the professional help I have had and continue to have has been very important, but above all not feeling alone every time a colleague has asked me, both from the CCOO union and from other organizations. That for me has been essential. The love, the concern, the empathy towards my situation—that has been an energy boost.

On the day of the conciliation [arbitration] proceedings, when I saw comrades arrive who I had met at other meetings, I only thought: I am not alone. And to my comrades from the state section Dany and Raul, and to Alejandro from the CCOO hotel union section, I can only say, thank you. And to the comrades from IZAR (Izquierda Anticapitalista Revolucionaria, from SAT (Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores), from the inter-professional (solidarity committees) with all those I have agreed. I always think that without you my situation would probably have another focus.

What are your demands, and how do you face the campaign to demand readmission?

Well, now it’s time to fight for my position in all the places where it’s necessary. It’s time to let everyone who works at Domino’s Pizza know what has happened to me today but that any day it can happen to someone else. We are just expendable numbers for the company and that has to change. We are fighting for a more dignified collective agreement, where more things are regulated, and for me what is fundamental is that the fight belongs to everyone. This requires us to get information, being present in the workplaces to listen to what the workers need, and to fight to include it in the agreement.

Domino’s Pizza in the Spanish state is a brand of the Zena Alsea group; until now they have been very comfortable without any opposition from the union, and we want to change this.

The original interview can be found here:

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