A protest by Asheville Mutual Aid over working conditions at Eddie Spaghetti resulted in confrontation today when cook Sasha Jenkinson grabbed the demonstrators’ signs and called them idiots, recorded in a short YouTube video by one of the protesters.
In the video, a small group of protesters can be seen around the Hendersonville Road restaurant, chanting “treat your workers right” and holding signs encouraging a boycott of the business. Jenkinson confronts them, saying “I’m a worker, I love my fucking job” while grabbing the signs. He also says “you’re a bunch of idiots.” One of the protesters tells him “don’t hit nobody” and another says “take pictures.” The video cuts off mid-confrontation.
According to AMA member Nable Wallin, a former worker came to them claiming that the business “had a generally abusive work environment” and didn’t compensate its workers properly. Two weeks before the protest, AMA presented a list of demands to management.
AMA, which formed earlier this year, is a network of workers and activists that aims to “create a climate in which bosses and landlords think twice before stiffing those under them,” according to its website.
“Because this is a service industry-oriented economy, you often see people getting treated really badly,” Wallin tells Xpress. “There’s no accountability for it, because you’re having to do this sort of work to survive, so the bosses can really shaft you, they can treat you like animals without you having any recourse. We’re trying to give people a way to stand up for themselves.”
Wallin said that along with the confrontation with Jenkinson today, the owner has reacted in a hostile manner to AMA’s demands, including at today’s protest.
“He would get in people’s faces, he was yelling,” Wallin tells Xpress. “He’s been nothing by hostile to us, so we decided we needed to put him in the spotlight a bit, see if we could get him to change his behavior.”
As for Jenkinson, he tells Xpress that he reacted the way he did because “these guys were wasting all this energy and this time on this one tiny restaurant, there’s seven employees here.”
He claims AMA’s protest was based on the word of only one employee and that their complaints don’t accurately reflect working conditions.
“It’s not the best job in the world, but it’s not the worst job in the world,” Jenkinson says. “I’ve got seven kids, they’re threatening my job. Of all the things to protest, they’re protesting this bullcrap.” He notes that the servers paid $8 an hour and get tips in their weekly paychecks.
“They’re standing in front of where I work, taking off my plate,” he adds. “I went out there, grabbed a few of their signs and let them know what they were doing, all they’re doing is threatening a bunch of hard-working people. They’re not changing anything.”
The protest, which lasted for about an hour, ended when the property manager asked the protesters to leave. By that point, a police officer had arrived. No one was charged.