Worker-owner spotlight: Emma Le, A Slice of New York Pizza

A photo of a person in a backwards baseball cap smiling to the camera and a photo of that same person wearing an apron and food handling gloves, spreading cheese over a raw pizza dough. Text that reads "I couldn't believe I was somewhere where I was valued and that the work I was putting in actually mattered" Emma Le, worker-owner at a Slice of New York Pizza, a Federation Member

SAN JOSE, CA — I was fresh out of high school when COVID hit, and there was a tighter leash on job opportunities.  I had heard horror stories from other places: in general working at retail sucks and the managers don’t treat you well. I didn’t want to work in that environment, but I was 18 with no experience. I applied to several food service places and nobody got back to me. 

Delivering for door dash sucked so bad and going out at night being by myself was a little dangerous.  I stopped door dashing because a guy approached me and I didn’t want anything to do with him but he wouldn’t back off, so I said I’m not going to do this anymore.  I’m going to find an actual job that doesn’t put myself in danger. 

I had just turned 19 when I started working at A Slice of New York and I was incredibly nervous.  Working with a bunch of guys, I was a little apprehensive at first.  Especially because of how I look, I feel like people will automatically talk down to me, but I didn’t really feel like that here. I couldn’t believe I was somewhere where I was valued and that the work I was putting in actually mattered. 

Before I knew anything about co-ops I was like “there’s no way that workers can actually make decisions about the business.”  I’m always skeptical of things that seem too good to be true and I didn’t realize how much say we would have in things as co-owners.  The only thing I had a say in at DoorDash was when I worked, and that was it. 

It’s pretty much the opposite at a worker co-op; I get to say what I think and it actually gets listened to.  Things like late policies, what goes on and off the menu and pricing are all decided by us.  As a shift lead, I have the responsibility of doing things that will benefit the crew like sending people on breaks and sending people home early.  

As co-owners we get paid for anything we do that contributes to the business, in or outside of the shop.  And if we need new shoes the shop pays for half, because you need shoes to work and you shouldn’t have to pay $80 out of your paycheck for your work shoes. 

Being a worker-owner has helped a lot with my confidence and being sure of myself and my capabilities.  I moved out of home a couple years ago and without this job it wouldn’t have been possible.  I’ve been renting an apartment with my partner and I was able to pay rent without my partner working for an entire year.  I didn’t think I was going to be able to do that for that long, so that was pretty crazy.   

Just seeing what I earn in a year is kind of insane.  I didn’t expect it to be that much, especially with the quarterly pay-outs for worker-owners.  For example, just in the first quarter of this year I got $527 just in dividends and it’s a cool opportunity for me to have, especially being as young as I am. 

I’m still growing up and still have some stuff to learn, but I’m proud of being a co-owner and representing this place.  I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity anywhere else, especially with how quickly I was able to become an owner and be on the management team.  

You gotta care if you wanna be an owner.  This is our stuff, nobody’s gonna get it done but us, so we gotta step up and do it.

Learn more about A Slice of New York Pizza and other USFWC worker co-op members in our Member Directory.

Posted in Links, Member News, News, Worker Co-op Stories.