Columbus, OH – A group of Condado Tacos employees walked off of the job after refusing to fill a large-scale catering order for the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP).
The incident took place on June 2 at the Condado Tacos location in the Polaris Fashion Place mall, the restaurant chain said in a statement to CNN.
The company said that the employees were told that they would not face any repercussions if they opted not to participate in filling the order, but they still chose to walk out during their shifts anyway.
Among them was server and cook Jake Widdowson, who told CNN that he thought that it was wrong for the restaurant to fill the OSHP’s 500-item order, even though he wasn’t forced to participate.
Widdowson said that he had been “tear gassed and shot at” during a recent “peaceful” protest, and that he “did not feel comfortable” with the restaurant feeding the highway patrol.
“Many people see it as an act [of] me refusing to serve cops, but it was really about the bigger issue of [Condado] claiming to support their community but was sooner providing food for police than protesters,” Widdowson told CNN.
“With everything that was going on and just with my political beliefs right now, I didn’t feel comfortable making that,” he added during an interview with The Columbus Dispatch. “I immediately told my kitchen manager and the store managers that. All of them were supportive of that. They said we’ll find something else for you to do. We’ll take care of that. We can respect that.”
Widdowson said that everything was fine until the visiting regional manager, Jason Labadie, heard about his request to not be involved in preparing the order.
“When he found out some of us were refusing to work on it, he said ‘Tell anyone who is refusing to work they’re fired,’” Widdowson told The Columbus Dispatch.
According to the restaurant chain, at least two other employees also walked off the job following the “heated discussion” with management, CNN reported.
In addition to temporarily closing the restaurant where the incident occurred, Condado Tacos also closed the Clintonville location in order to “allow room for conversation between our team,” the company told CNN.
The company noted that none of the employees who walked off of their shifts were fired.
“We want to make it clear that they are welcome to return to work, if that is their choice, but they must understand that Condado Tacos is an inclusive business and that we will continue to serve everyone, including law enforcement,” the chain’s statement read.
“Choosing not to serve a particular group, in this case law enforcement officers, in itself is discrimination and goes against our core values to welcome and serve everyone,” the company continued, according to The Columbus Dispatch. “We will continue to spread love and not hate.”
The OSHP said that its personnel were “treated with nothing but kindness and respect” throughout their ordering process, and that they had no idea that several employees refused to serve them, CNN reported.
“The order was placed for personnel working the protests and while placing the order, which was fulfilled, the Patrol was treated with nothing but kindness and respect,” the OSHP confirmed in a statement.
“The Patrol would welcome the opportunity to establish an open dialogue with the Condado’s employees in an effort to build inroads to open lines of communication that will help all of us,” the highway patrol added. “We are an agency who fosters understanding, communication and respect among all people.”
Meanwhile, a group of Condado’s Tacos employees have threatened to quit their jobs for good if the company does not cater to their demands to issue a formal apology to the staff, fire Labadie, and make donations to the Columbus Freedom Fund, the estate of George Floyd, and the Minneapolis Freedom Fund, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
In an Instagram post on June 2, Condado Tacos said that it will “will be announcing donations and other efforts that we are making to support movements and efforts to achieve racial equality.”