Employees of Homegrown Redmond took to the streets of Northeast Leary Way to protest health and safety concerns.
Homegrown is a chain restaurant that offers sandwiches, salads and bowls with a focus on sustainability.
“We are not just sandwich makers! Homegrown profits off our labor!” was one of the chants that kicked off the strike on Aug. 25 as employees struck drums, cowbells and tambourines.
So far, Homegrown has yet to address growing safety concerns of employees throughout the region.
Quinn Malick, an employee of Homegrown Redmond, said the group was striking because they feel like they’re not being heard by corporate leaders, and said action needs to be taken now. Malick said when the oven is on for a long period of time, such as during a lunch rush, the oven starts to burn food because it gets so hot, and as a result, generates high levels of smoke.
“I had to go home early one day because my asthma was flaring up from the smoke, and it’s just been miserable for whenever it flares up,” said Malick.
Malick brought up how air purifiers and fans were placed in the store to funnel out the smoke.
“From what I know, we got the air purifiers after we threatened to strike,” said Malick. “Otherwise they weren’t going to do anything about it — just some medium powered fans.”
According to Malick, the oven is the primary source of the smoke, which sifts from the back kitchen into the front of the facility. According to Malick, corporate has been alerted of this issue a handful of times at meetings.
The vote to strike was unanimous, and Malick was one of the employees who counted the votes.
“It makes me feel supported by my coworkers because that means they’re feeling the same things I’m feeling,” said Malick. “They’re willing to do the same things I’m doing.”
While employees were outside chanting, the location manager was in the store, but locked everything up around 11 a.m., with no plans to serve sandwiches for the remainder of the day.
“If we don’t get no clean air! You don’t get no sandwich!” chanted one of the employees, drawing in several onlookers and car honks, which only increased the employee’s already high energy.
Lena Malkasian, an employee of the Homegrown Redmond location, said that if corporate continues to neglect their concerns following the strike, they’re going to keep protesting. While finding issues with Homegrown since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as risking getting COVID or staying home and not getting paid, Malkasian’s greatest issue has been the ventilation.
“I am 31 weeks pregnant,” said Malkasian. “I’m coughing, my eyes are watering, and it has been an absolute bad issue to the point where sometimes I’m calling out of work just because I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my baby.”
Malkasian said the employees have reached out to corporate, store managers — everyone they could think of — in order to resolve this safety issue.
“Like every business in the region, we have struggled with how to keep our employees cool and comfortable as our region is hit with record heat waves and we see more and more 90+ degree days each year,” said Brad Gillis, Homegrown CEO.
Employees of the Homegrown Redmond location continued striking until about 1 p.m., but they weren’t the only ones. Employees at the Queen Anne location also went on strike on August 25.