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October 1, 2022

A Texas-based pizza chain was allegedly captured throwing out a pro-union employee, according to an audio recording that leaked on Twitter.

The audio clip, posted by the labor platform More Perfect Union on Thursday, allegedly captured the leadership of pizza chain Via 313 lashing out at a worker who questioned an anti-union meeting. Founded in Austin, Texas, in 2011, the restaurant has expanded to other parts of the state and launched establishments in Utah.

The pizzeria is already under fire for alleged union busting. Its Austin employees filed for a union election after more than a year of organizing on August 4, according to Eater Austin. In January, during the Omicron variant surge, a group of employees claimed they were put at risk through COVID-19 transparency issues and safety concerns.

Shortly afterward, employees filed two unfair labor practice charges against Via 313 through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The complaints cited Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, which says that an employer cannot “interfere with, restrain or coerce employees” who exercise their right to unionize.

The recording leaked from Via 313 started with a manager allegedly saying, “The long and short of it is that I also am gonna ask you to not vote the union in.”

“I don’t think that it would benefit us in any way,” the manager went on. “I would much rather create a relationship with those of you that I don’t know and maintain a relationship with those of you that I do know, and deal with you on a direct basis, have open conversations even if they’re hard, move forward in that direction rather than dealing with a third party. It’s just so much less personal to me.”

Disturbing audio of a pizza chain CEO ejecting a worker from a restaurant after she questions his anti-union talking points.

“You’re not letting me speak,” the worker says. “You’re right, I’m not,” responds the CEO of the Austin-based Via 313 chain. Then he escalates.

— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) September 29, 2022

That was when an employee jumped in, arguing against the “third party narrative.”

But she was cut off by Via 313’s CEO, according to More Perfect Union.

“Hold on, this is actually my meeting,” he said. “This is a pre-shift and it’s our meeting, and I appreciate your viewpoint of it. However, you’re right, it’s our narrative, and it’s our meeting, and it’s…”

“But it’s incorrect, that’s what I’m just trying to clear up,” said the worker.

The CEO continued to argue with her about whether a union constituted a “third party.”

“Well you’re not letting me speak,” the employee said.

“You’re right, I’m not,” the CEO replied, before swiftly cutting the meeting short.

Moments after that meeting ended, More Perfect Union alleged that the CEO kicked the worker out of the restaurant.

Chicken sausage pizza slices
Here, a stock photo of chicken sausage pizza. A Texas-based pizza chain was allegedly captured throwing out a pro-union employee, according to an audio recording that leaked on Twitter.
Smith Collection/Gado / Contributor/Archive Photos

In a subsequent audio clip, he said, “I would like you to leave my restaurant, please. Now.”

“I’m sitting here talking to my friend,” the worker responded.

“Doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You already started something. I’m asking you to leave,” said the CEO.

“Just to be clear, you started here, what? Like a week ago?” said the worker.

“Doesn’t matter, I’m the CEO of the company, it’s still my company,” the leader said.

The restaurant industry has historically been slow to unionize, as it tends to draw a transient workforce and restaurants can quickly go out of business. But a labor movement has gained momentum amid the collision of a shrinking labor pool, a looming recession and a Democratic president in the White House, according to labor attorney Barry Saltzman.

Wages for restaurant staff have not kept pace with inflation, Saltzman told Nation’s Restaurant News in July. Meanwhile, the national labor shortage has given employees leverage to negotiate and form unions. Workers also have more confidence organizing under the administration of Joe Biden, who appointed pro-labor Lauren McFerran as the head of the National Labor Relations Board.

Newsweek reached out to Via 313 and More Perfect Union for comment.

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