Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
-The Founding Fathers of the United State of America; Bill of Rights; Article I (1791)
Democracy is not something that should be taken for granted; it is participatory, and must be not only embraced, but defended by those who are lucky enough to benefit from it. That responsibility lies with every person, and, as Republican Senator Mitt Romney told us all way back in 2012, “corporations are people.”
Yesterday, 40-unit fast casual chain &pizza (not a typo) released a statement that it would be offering its 700 employees three days of paid time off (PTO) to use, at their discretion, to participate in the hundreds of peaceful protests occurring in all 50 (yes, all 50!) states.
“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,” said the statement. “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.”
Speaking with Food & Wine, &pizza CEO Michael Lastoria confirmed that the PTO is in addition to the regular PTO employees already receive, so that no one is forced to choose between their job and their ethics.
“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.”
While a policy such as this is unusual in the restaurant industry specifically, corporations providing their employees with social justice benefits is not unprecedented: a 2017 article from Fast Company pointed out initiatives from companies like Burton Snowboards and Luxe and mentioned a long-standing policy at Patagonia of paying the bail of any employee who’s been arrested for peacefully protesting environmental or related issues. Let’s hope that other restaurants start taking a cue from &pizza.