The Dominos Fall
By Ryan Faulkner - September 18, 2012
Domino’s Pizza sucks. Not just in the sense that it treats its workers heinously, the pizza itself is of a low quality. Eating a slice of Domino’s pizza is a similar experience to swallowing a salt shaker. So its not surprising that on a Saturday night in Berkeley, the Domino’s storefront was dead. A delivery car would run out the back every 15 minutes or so, but business was not booming.
Us Wobblies posted up at a Chinese restaurant next door, waiting for 6 PM, when our demonstration was set to begin. We had committed to stage an action in solidarity with Domino’s Delivery Drivers in Australia, who have received an arbitrary wage cut of 19%, a punishment for the 23 delivery drivers who raised complaints over a trend of paychecks that came up short of their promised salaries.
The consensus in the Chinese restaurant was that this was going to be a git ’er done and out kind of deal. Walk around with signs in front of the location for a couple hours, chant some angry chants, and flyer passersby. Hopefully, by the end of the night, we’d cost Domino’s a few customers, get the workers thinking about the stability of their own wages, and bother the boss enough that they’d give corporate management a call.
But we got so much more.
The first step we took was to enter the Domino’s, tell the workers what was happening, give them flyers for informational purposes, and make it clear that we were on their side. But one of the workers at the front end wasn’t having it. She ran to the back, screaming for her boss like we were trying to rob the place.
Her boss came out in a ridiculous fury, charging us with disrupting the operation of some sort of mom n’ pop shop.
“I treat my people well here!” she said. “And you’re trying to mess that up! This is a franchise! I’m a small business owner! YOU DAMN WOBBLIES!”
It’s strange to think that someone would have the nerve to argue that a store with the Domino’s logo on it had no relationship whatsoever with the Domino’s Pizza Corporation.
So at first there were 4 of us, marching in a circle. Then a veteran wob showed up and we had 5. Then 3 comrades from the WSA appeared, followed by two more fellow workers, and we had quite a mass rally going on. Some guy I’d never met before was walking down the street, saw what was going on, thought it made sense, and joined in.
It was nice, but not very exhilarating. The cops had been called, but Berkeley PD doesn’t exactly make small demos on the sidewalk a high priority. Eventually a cop did show up, but he only stuck around for a few minutes, told us our rights, and left. He was almost sarcastic in how little he seemed to care about what was going on. There was a quality of excitement lacking from the whole affair.
Fortunately, the boss changed that in a bigger way than we could have ever hoped.
Suddenly, workers started running outside with flyers and pizzas, and started passing them out to anyone that seemed interested. A fellow worker who had been passing out flyers at the corner asked what the deal was, and ran back to us with an big grin on his face:
“That idiot is giving free pizza away to everyone. She thinks it’s gonna convince people that Domino’s isn’t so bad.”
That’s right, the boss’ response to our attempt to cost Domino’s money was… to cost Domino’s way more money than we could have ever anticipated.
Not wanting anyone to miss out on this opportunity, 3 of us split up and ran to the busiest intersections in Berkeley, telling everyone that they could get free pizza just by asking for it. Most folks were skeptical, but hordes of hungry teenagers were willing to take the risk that we might be pulling a fast one. Within minutes, twitter was crackling with the news. From Telegraph to Shattuck, crowds of Berkeley’s nightlife were descending upon Domino’s.
By the time I had returned to the pizza joint, a dense line was stretching out the door and down to the corner. Domino’s workers were passing out free sodas to everyone waiting. As we observed the people coming out the door, it was obvious that they weren’t just getting free slices, the boss was throwing away full pies. Some even had the gall to ask for sides… and got them.
Wobblies soapboxed to the crowd waiting in line, educating them on what had happened in Australia. People who had came just wanting to take advantage of the situation left shocked at the contempt with which Domino’s treats its workers. We were congratulated on our ability to help people by hurting profits.
By this time, the boss had clearly realized that her clever plan was a disaster, but there was nothing she could do but wait it out. The people were too many and too hungry. Delivery drivers were rolling in laughter at the spectacle, thanking us for also getting all the workers inside free pizzas, apparently out of the boss’ fear that our demonstration would get them to think about organizing. The bribe didn’t seem to work at all.
Eventually it was decided that we should leave, figuring that if a riot ensued when Domino’s ran out of commodities, we didn’t want the IWW banner across it. We had done our part. But after our demo had dissipated, we drove past the storefront one more time, only to behold the sight of a line just as long as we had left it, the costs to the corporation still spiraling even in the absence of our presence.
Someone estimated the damage we did that night puts the cost to Domino’s somewhere between $2,000 to $4,000.
Just out of curiosity, I called the location several hours later to see how they were handling the fallout:
Domino’s Worker: “Thank you for choosing Domino’s, how can I help you?”
Me: “Hey, I heard y’all are giving away free pizza. What’s going on?”
Domino’s Worker: “No, no, that just ended, we ran out of… no that just ended.”
Me: “Oh, ok. So what’s the deal with that? Is it a Saturday thing, or just a random event, or what?”
Domino’s Worker: “No, we just did that to get rid of… I mean, that was a… spur-of-the-moment customer appreciation thing.”
Domino’s obviously won’t tell the real story, so it falls to us. If anyone asks what went down in Berkeley that night, just tell them that the biggest pizza company in the world was thrown into such a panic by the sight of Wobblies at the door that they threw a couple grand worth of surplus value down the drain.