This Pizza Chain Is Offering Paid Time Off to Protest
At its core, activism requires thinking about the good of others beyond just the good of yourself. That can be a difficult choice. People have jobs and families and other obligations, and doing what they think is right can also be a risk. But as protests arose across America over the weekend, at least one pizza chain wanted its employees to know they shouldn’t have to choose between supporting a cause and earning a paycheck.
Yesterday, the Washington, D.C.-based fast casual chain &pizza—which has 40 locations across five East Coast states—sent out a statement announcing that it would be offering paid time off (PTO) to employees who want to follow their conscience while also respecting their jobs. “For those in pain. For those in this fight. We stand with the Black Community against racial hate and injustice. In memory of George Floyd & in UNITY always,” &pizza’s message began. “From this day forward, &pizza will be giving its employees paid time off for activism. For those unseen by this country to be seen. For those unheard by this government to be heard.”
"It's about showing—and fighting for—Unity," CEO Michael Lastoria said as part of a statement provided to Food & Wine. "We at &pizza, with all our unique backgrounds and circumstances, have pledged allegiance to this mission as our guiding belief. And we’ve always tried to make it more than a word, to act as more than just a pizza brand, and to serve more than just our guests."
A spokesperson for the chain confirmed to me via email that this new policy does not simply allow for activism to be used as a reason for existing paid time off: It’s additional PTO beyond what employees usually receive. Specifically, &pizza explained that employees will now receive three additional days of PTO “to participate in activism of their choosing starting this week and moving forward.” The company says it has about 700 employees in total, and as of yesterday, one employee had already utilized one of these new PTO days. Inevitably, more employees will follow.
If other restaurant chains are offering protest PTO, they apparently haven’t been as vocal about it thus far—but &pizza isn’t the only company to provide time off for activism. In fact, a 2017 article from Fast Company even asked, “Could ‘Social Justice Benefits’ Be The Newest Employment Trend?” highlighting businesses that were offering PTO for political involvement. Apparently, the outdoor apparel brand Patagonia will even pay bail for any employees arrested for peacefully protesting environmental issues.
Still, if social justice benefits is indeed a trend, it certainly hasn't seemed to reach very far: &pizza’s latest announcement still feels both refreshing and uncommon.
Update June 2, 2020: This article has been corrected to reflect the total number of workers employed by &pizza and with a statement from the CEO.