Exterior of Pizza Nova location at 3704 W 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood. Credit: Jesus J Montero

On Thursday, May 30, workers from the South Side pizza chain, Pizza Nova, held a press conference on 26th Street in Little Village to express grievances and workplace injustice alongside worker rights’ organization, Arise-Chicago. Workers demanded the company reinstate three employees who they claim were illegally fired for organizing in 2023.

“We are asking for justice for us as workers and as human beings,” said Martha Rodriguez, in Spanish, at the event. Rodriguez has been a delivery driver for the pizzeria since August of 2020, and was one of the three workers speaking out after being unlawfully terminated for organizing. 

Employees at Pizza Nova began organizing in October citing workplace bullying, wage and hour violations, and lack of safety due to robberies at the location. 

Workers claim the company retaliated against them in an attempt to discourage organizing by requiring workers to sign a new code of conduct and increasing their workload. Despite this, the workers continued organizing and sought support from Arise in early 2024. Since then, workers have submitted multiple collective letters requesting a meeting with management. They still have not received any response.

The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating two separate complaints for using intimidation tactics against employees at Pizza Nova such as threatening workers and surveilling employees to stop them from organizing. 

The restaurant chain is also being investigated by the city’s Office of Labor Standards, which did not respond to a request for comment from South Side Weekly by press time. 

Rodriguez said that delivery drivers at the chain are required to use their own vehicles but are not properly insured under Pizza Nova. Rodriguez was involved in a car accident while on the job and was not compensated for damages to her vehicle that resulted in a total loss. Workers have written letters and tried to contact owners Tony Parente and Hector Coronado but have yet to receive a response. 

“We believe that when workers win, we all win,” Arise workplace justice campaigns organizer Jose Uribe said. “When workers at Pizza Nova approached us saying that they were being subjected to these deplorable working conditions, that they were being robbed of their hard earned wages, and that they were being threatened and intimidated in the effort of stopping them from fighting for workplace improvements. We had to step in.”

Pizza Nova currently has five locations across the South Side in Pilsen, Little Village, Canaryville, West Elsdon, and Ashburn—neighborhoods that are largely made up of people of color. Their employees are a reflection of the community they serve. 

“It sends the message that the only way to get ahead is by exploiting your community and exploiting your people,” Uribe said. 

Among the employees speaking out was Laurencio Romero who began working at Pizza Nova in 1999 and was let go this past March. 

“They abused the worker, they abused me,” Laurencio Romero said in Spanish while choking back tears. 

In similar fashion to Rodriguez, Romero was let go after an accident while completing delivery orders. He detailed years of abuse that included being made to perform duties outside his role. 

His wife, who was never employed by the company, was asked by management to accompany Romero on his delivery route for added safety. On several occasions, Romero’s wife was also tasked with errands to run for the pizzeria without ever receiving compensation. 

Pizza Nova previously faced a lawsuit in 2003. Four former employees filed against Pizza Nova alleging “that they were paid less than minimum wage and that they were not properly compensated for working overtime in excess of forty hours per week.” The motion was ultimately denied because the former employees were not able to produce adequate evidence to back their claims. 

Overall, workers are asking that the company provide all employees with information about their rights surrounding paid sick leave, allowing workers a day off according to the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act, giving lunch breaks at reasonable times, providing proper training and ending accusations of theft without evidence. 

Delivery workers are demanding that transactions be completed via credit card after dark, ending deliveries to high crime areas after dark, reimbursements for using personal 

automobiles and cell phones, and for a reliable time keeping system.

For kitchen staff, workers are asking for proper equipment and training in hygiene practices. 

Pizza Nova did not respond to a request for comment from the Weekly.

For now, the three employees and Arise will continue to organize and try to not only be reinstated to their former jobs, but to obtain better working conditions for all at Pizza Nova.

The event concluded with a call and response. 

“What do we want?”




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Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales is a Mexican American journalist from Belmont Cragin and the Weekly’s music editor.

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