Latino taco workers received abuse, racial slurs, just for asking customers to wear a mask


It seemed an idea that the masses who love tacos would lean without hesitation: without masks, without tacos.

But even though tacos are a conventional American obsession, they are required to wear a mask in the midst of a pandemic to order from one of Hugo’s two Tacos in Los Angeles that supposedly brought out the worst in some.

The mask’s misbehavior got out of control, employees and owners had to say “no more” (no more).

Last weekend, the taco stall owners closed their windows for at least a week, so employees can take a break from taco problems. They also launched the #nomasknotaco hashtag to draw attention to what their employees have endured and to gain support behind the policy.

“The mask has become something it is not and public health has become political,” said Hugo Tacos CEO Bill Kohne.

In its closure announcement, Hugo’s Tacos management said its taco stand workers were “exhausted” from the conflicts and that they had been harassed, called, and had objects and liquids thrown at them.

“He is an equal opportunity criminal,” he said. They even had trouble with food mailings who were told they had to wear masks to pick up orders.

When employees told a customer that they had to wear a mask or could not be seen, some repeated what the worker said “childishly,” Kohne said.

Most of the employees are Latino, and they also suffered racial slurs.

The behavior has been puzzling given that restaurants in California also have to publish the ratings they get from the health department, Kohne said. People go to restaurants with a published A rating. If the restaurant has a grade C, which means a health problem was found and needs to be fixed and then re-inspected, avoid that establishment.

“A mask symbolizes nothing more than our desire to keep our staff healthy,” management said in its announcement posted on social media.

After the state mask mandate, an increase in vitriol

On June 18, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered faces to be covered as coronavirus cases increased and hospitalizations increased across the state and across the country. Newsom, who was the first to institute a state order to stay home in March, has ordered several counties to close the bars again, joining Texas and California to retract their reopens.

Once the mask order went into effect, it became a health regulation, to be followed just like regulations for cutting chicken or wearing gloves for food preparation, all in place for years to protect customers. Kohne said.

He said that the conversation around the masks had taken place even before the mandate, but once it became a rule there was a dramatic increase in the vitriol.

People claimed they did not have a mask, or ignored the order, laughed and yelled at workers and said things like “we will all die anyway,” he said, sharing some items from records kept by employees. Some would throw their food on the floor and then demand a refund.

Things got so bad, said Kohne, who sent a facility manager to the taco stands and within one hour, that manager had four or five confrontations with customers.

Nabor Prado, a chef with Hugo’s Tacos in his 30s, told NBC News in Los Angeles that a customer was upset that an employee told him to wear a mask. The client threw a cup of water at the employee “which is unsafe and rude,” Prado said. “It is really sad to see adult people doing childish things like that.”

Kohne said that all open food inside the truck had to be dumped for health safety reasons when liquid was dumped.

The closure added to all the other pressures that employees have faced. Taco trucks were considered essential; few taco lovers would argue against that. But the hours were shortened for the workers, who had to choose whether to go to work and risk getting sick. The business also slowed in fear that coronavirus infection would prevail over taco cravings.

“It was a stressful first month of something bad being out there, bad and invisible. Then it seemed like people were calmly taking the rules, cooperating. In fact, we felt like an ideal place, people were willing to sacrifice for it. good from your neighbor, “Kohne said.

In this San Antonio restaurant, a different scene.

The experience has been very different in San Antonio at Ruthie’s Mexican restaurant, where a “No mask, no taco” sign has been posted for two weeks, general manager Nas Valencia said.

“We have been around for 30 years and many of our clients have been around from day one,” he said. The clients are families of grandparents, parents, children, brothers and sisters who dined when possible. The restaurant only serves takeout now and younger family members are picking up.

“It was supposed to be humorous, but it really took on a stronger look for people and they love it. They feel safe and we’re not just letting anyone in,” he said.

Valencia said that it has the right to deny service and it does: if they are being racist, they cannot enter; If you hate law enforcement, who get support at your restaurant, don’t go inside.

“We say that if you are disrespectful, we have the right to refuse service to anyone. We are all children of God and everyone is welcome here. ”

But he also said, “We are so small, if you don’t like my rules, you go somewhere else and get your tacos.”

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