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Queer bar workers — laid off over coronavirus social distancing — stage protest inside bar. Until cops arrive to break up the party.

Management allegedly 'antagonized, teased, and taunted the workers' as police led them away

Image source: Facebook video screenshot

A queer bar in Portland, Oregon — Crush Bar — laid off all 27 of its employees Monday after closing its doors to all dine-in food and drink transactions on the heels of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown's statewide social distancing mandates to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Eater Portland reported.

But Crush Bar employees fought back Tuesday, the outlet said.

Protesting what they called illegal withholding of funds, 12 Crush Bar employees arrived at the establishment and then refused to leave, Eater Portland said. It was a demonstration against owner John Clarke's decision to do the layoffs without financial compensation, the outlet noted, as well as a claim that he illegally denied their use of accrued sick hours to cover lost wages.

But alas, the protest — which was set to last for up to 24 hours — was dispersed by Portland police after an hour, Eater Portland reported.

Hannah Gioia — a line cook at Crush and representative for the bar and cafe's union, the Crush Bar Workers Collective — told the outlet that the protesters "peaceably left, as the cops dictated" while "management antagonized, teased, and taunted the workers."

What else did Gioia have to say?

"Yesterday we all were informed via text or phone call or from the Crush Facebook page that the bar was shutting down, and all employees would be laid off," Gioia also told the outlet. "When pressed for accrued sick time pay off, half-time pay for our scheduled hours one week out, and guarantee rehires when the bar reopens, the owner said, 'No, no, and no.'"

Gioia noted to Eater Portland that the sit-in was necessary to demonstrate urgency.

"We do not predict that we can wait out a government agency's abilities to process this charge," Gioia said. "We need resources now. Getting laid off is already devastating, but during a public health crisis it's catastrophic. We are out of options, and we expect this owner to do what is legally required and what is right by us."

What did the Crush Bar have to say?

The bar posted the following message on its Facebook page Wednesday: "Crush was exploring the option for employees to claim unemployment benefits while retaining their accrued sick time. It is clear that staff want their sick time paid out immediately, and it will be available to them today (Wednesday, March 18). We are working with the employees to get their checks to them as expeditiously as possible."

How did others react to the Crush Bar's message?"

Um, not very well:

  • "You need the employees (and customers) they (we) don't need you. Especially during all of this? And you decide to get s**tty? Canceled."
  • "No, absolutely not. You don't get to not apologize for your actions while telling some story that makes it seem like it's fine that you haven't paid your employees."
  • "If you were looking into this, why the hostility with your employees, and why would you call the cops on a peaceful sit-in instead of listen[ing] to their concerns? This smells foul, and nowhere do you see the management taking responsibility for their actions and apologizing. I am absolutely ashamed of you. ... I do hope the buyers see what you've done and SEVERELY reduce the amount in the contract. Irreparable damage to the brand during the buying process and all that."
  • "Thank you for posting. I am unfollowing now and never going there again. Telling all my friends not to go as well."
  • "Until the general manager is fired I'll never go here again or support this place. You're only as good as your employees say, and this place is horrible!!! You forget where you came from!!"

Editor's note: This article has been updated.

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