ULA urges boycott of Pizza House, citing worker abuse
Following a report from a former employee of verbal and physical abuse, ULA has launched a boycott of Pizza House.
Khuan-Yu Hall, Contributing Photographer
Following allegations of verbal and physical abuse against a worker at Pizza House by his manager, Unidad Latina en Acción, a local immigrant advocacy group, is calling on the New Haven community to boycott the pizzeria.
Javier Lavado, a former employee of Pizza House, alleges that on Feb. 25, he was verbally and physically assaulted by his manager, Luis Nagera. Lavado alleges that an intoxicated Nagera called him homophobic slurs and shoved him after the two disagreed about the proper way to put cheese on a pizza. After their altercation, Lavado said he called the pizzeria owner for help but received none, as Lavado does not speak English and had difficulty explaining the situation. He then called the police, who offered no assistance either.
“I told the police officer that I called him because I need [your] support, and I need your protection, and I need you to do something,” said Lavado, as translated by ULA co-founder John Lugo. “But the police officer told me not to tell him how to do his job, and then told me that nothing happened here … I left my country because I was receiving threats and hate [for being] gay, and now here I am suffering the same.”
A few days later, Lavado got a call from Pizza House informing him that he had been fired.
Neither Pizza House management nor Nagera responded to requests for comment.
Lavado then called ULA, which he has been a member of since he came to the U.S. from Peru in 2020. The group decided to write a letter to the owner of Pizza House, detailing the abuse that Lavado had suffered at the hands of Nagera. Lugo told the News that he hoped to convince the owner to begin a mediation process between Lavado and Nagera, hoping to get Lavado his job back.
When they attempted to deliver the letter to the owner of Pizza House, Peter Papadopoulos, on March 9, ULA said that Papadopoulos refused to meet with them and accused Lavado of trespassing.
Lugo also told the News that they had received previous complaints from workers regarding Nagera’s behavior, especially similar stories of Nagera acting aggressively while intoxicated. Unlike previous reports, Lugo said that Lavado’s was the first incident where police were involved and where an employee was fired immediately.
“If the manager doesn’t like somebody, he fires them or puts so much pressure and harassment on them that they leave,” Lugo said. “We feel like this is not a healthy place to work, so we sent a press release with some demands.”
Lugo also said that ULA sent a complaint to NHPD for not arresting Nagera for his verbal and physical harassment of Lavado when Lavado called them to the scene. Lugo says this complaint was submitted last week.
Captain Rose J. Dell, media liaison and public information officer for NHPD, told the News that he was unable to find anything matching Lavado’s account of the original incident or Lugo’s complaint regarding the police’s response.
ULA’s boycott of Pizza House began about three weeks ago. ULA is asking that patrons boycott Pizza House until Nagera is fired and until Lavado receives compensation from Pizza House.
“It has been a positive response from the customers,” Lugo said. “We tried to advocate with the customers that they have the power to say something about this kind of injustice. In many of the places downtown, in the kitchens they are immigrant workers. They’re mistreated all the time … it’s time to say no to this kind of behavior. They should treat their workers as human beings, not as slaves.”
Unlike Lavado, many of the workers who have come to ULA with workplace complaints are undocumented, according to Lugo, and so they fear losing their job or facing deportation by reporting abuse to the police.
Lugo added that ULA is currently working with the city government to try to design better protections for workers.
Pizza House is located at 89 Howe St.