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Sonic Drive-In Workers Walk Out After Payment Dispute in Uptown

 Sonic Drive-In, 1022 W. Wilson Ave.
Sonic Drive-In, 1022 W. Wilson Ave.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

UPTOWN — Workers walked out of Uptown's new Sonic Drive-In restaurant last week after their paychecks came up short, forcing managers to shut down the restaurant and cut new checks before reopening.

It happened during the afternoon on Friday — payday. Neighborhood website Uptown Update first reported the dispute on its Facebook page.

Everybody except the fast food restaurant's managers decided to end their shifts in protest, including one employee who said his check was fine. Restaurant officials said an error, not deception, caused the payroll problem.

Matt Kinnare of Boom Enterprises, the Sonic's franchisee, said nobody was cheated — a computer glitch caused the payroll issue, the employer fixed the problem the same day, and the Sonic reopened Saturday.

Fewer than 10 workers left, employees said.

Adeshina Emmanuel chats about the payroll dispute and work stoppage at Sonic over the weekend:

"If it happens again, it won't be the last time," a  worker said Monday at the Sonic, which opened May 1 at 1022 W. Wilson Ave.

About half of the restaurant's 85 or so employees were affected by the glitch. It isn't clear how much money was missing from checks, but one employee said he was short "several days'" worth of work, about $150.

Kinnare insisted that what happened Friday was a first, a freak accident and not a pattern. Yet some employees "rather than wait for an explanation, decided they were going to end their shift early," Kinnare said, emphasizing that the workers "weren't reprimanded."

"At our end, we apologized to the employees, telling them that first and foremost it wasn't anything intentional," Kinnare said. "Everybody worked their next shift as scheduled."

Employees interviewed declined to have their names published. Several of them reflected on the walkout with pride on Monday, encouraged that their solidarity forced such a swift response from management.

"We were united that day," a cashier said with a smile.

Another worker who walked out said store managers were reasonable for the most part with the workers, and that one even encouraged them to leave, something the worker said he doubts the company higher-ups would smile upon.

"They're probably mad at them for that," he said.

Despite the labor dispute, Sonic officials are upbeat about the new location, which pulls about half of its employees from the Uptown area, according to Kinnare.

A Sonic representative at a community meeting last week compared the Uptown Sonic to its suburban counterparts, saying it was doing about 2½ times the sales volume of the other Sonics.

Kinnare wouldn't get into numbers on Monday. He said, however, the Uptown Sonic is on track to becoming the most profitable of the nearly 20 Sonics in a five-county region that includes Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

"It's been fantastic, it's been really well-received by the people in the community," Kinnare said.