Buzzing for Change: Justice for Jollibee Wokers


Beneath the bee-utiful Jollibee smile, there’s a different kind of buzz. It’s not the sizzle of crispy chicken or grilled pineapple from the Aloha Burger– it’s the sound of Jollibee workers standing up for their rights. 


I had the pleasure of joining a community picnic hosted by Jollibee workers on a sunny Sunday afternoon. As I walked through the vibrant atmosphere, I couldn’t help but reminisce of the times I’d plopped down to enjoy Jollibee. The amazing staff always greeted me with a smile, and they even brought my food to me, something highly unusual at a fast food joint! Little did I know that behind those smiles were untold tales of suffering and abuse. 


Jollibee, or using their government name, Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC), is an international fast-food restaurant. According to JFC they are the “largest and fastest growing Asian restaurant company in the world”. JFC was founded in the Philippines, but now serves the US, UK, Canada, UAE, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and many other countries, with a total of 1300 stores worldwide. JFC is like a combination of McDonald’s and KFC, with a Filipino twist and adding some Filipino staples like sweet spaghetti. JFC even has its own version of a Ronald or Sanders mascot, the Jollibee, a red and white cheerful little bee. While every fast-food place has its own gimmick, JFC took their bee theme a little too seriously.   


 On National Fried Chicken Day (Thursday, July 6, 2023), illegally terminated and current Jollibee workers, along with their supporters, marched in front of the Journal Square Jollibee in Jersey City. Wait, let’s back up. Why were they illegally fired? Journal Square Jollibee workers had been organizing themselves for months, and in late 2022 created a letter demanding wage increases, holiday pay, and other improvements in the workplace. They then began to collect signatures and were able to get roughly 90% of the stores’ workers to sign on. Management caught wind, and after creating a story about revenue loss, terminated 9 employees. Hence, the workers marched on their store, to demand JFC reinstate their fellow workers (with compensation for lost wages), adhere to their demands, and publicly apologize for violating their rights as workers and for the years of exploitation. JFC did not comment, but police arrived and removed the workers and their supporters. 

Back to the sunny Sunday afternoon. After having heard and read the issues the Journal Square Jollibee workers are facing, I was finally able to meet with them. I was shocked at how much Jollibee had been exploiting these workers, many of whom were younger than 25. On Jollibee’s website their ‘corporate values’ one of which is: 


 “We contribute to a work environment that’s warm, caring, and accepting, and employ a happy and positive attitude towards ourselves, people, and situations. We like to have wholesome fun and enjoy the company of our teammates” (source)


– Seems ironic given that they violated this value in every way. Jollibee workers are not paid overtime, not allowed to take breaks, paid incorrect hourly wages, are severely understaffed, misclassified as part-time employees when working full-time hours, and harassed by management. One of the workers explained that they were regularly performing the duties of 2–3 people. Another fellow worker, describing their typical workday, revealed that they were expected to bread over 60 chickens in 5 minutes, that’s 1 chicken every 5 seconds. Add on top of that harassment from management, like yelling, bullying, and surveillance. These are elements that do not make a “work environment that’s warm, caring, and accepting”. 


The community picnic’s intention was to raise awareness about Journal Square Jollibee workers, and to that end it was successful. These workers are bravely challenging JFC’s inequality and exploitation. And they’re doing it with the support of allies from their local community, and even some from NYC, notably Austin Locke from Starbucks Workers United was present and gave a fiery speech. 


So, to the Jollibee workers who are raising their voices: you’re not just fry cooks, cashiers, and service crew. You are heroes of the workforce, inspiring us all to stand up against exploitation and abuse, and you are not alone. 🍗✊🌟


Check out more on the Justice 4 Jollibee workers page or follow them on Instagram, and make sure to share this article!