The Clinton Justice Department is now micro-managing deliveries of
Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s, after being bullied into compliance by
administration officials, has recently agreed to deliver pizza to
neighborhoods it had shunned because of risks to its drivers, 24 of whom
have been killed on the job.

The Justice Department said that all people, regardless of race or
creed, have a right to pizza. Administration officials asserted that
Domino’s, in business for 40 years and now the world’s largest pizza
delivery company, was essentially guilty of racial profiling because it
permitted its drivers to avoid neighborhoods that they considered to be
too dangerous.

“What about the right of all people,” regardless of race or creed,
“to avoid getting killed?” asked Investor’s Business Daily. “Call us
crazy, but that right would seem to trump the Justice’s Department’s
newly found right to pizza.”

This case brings to mind a 1997 case in Pittsburgh in which an
African-American couple, Carl and Shelia Truss, filed a complaint with
the city’s Human Relations Commission regarding Pizza Hut’s refusal to
deliver them a sausage pizza on May 2, 1992, the night of the rioting in
Los Angeles set off by the Rodney King verdict. After being informed
that there weren’t any deliveries, Shelia Truss told the Pizza Hut clerk
that all was peaceful in her neighborhood. “What does what’s going on
in California have to do with me?” she asked. Her attorney, Ann Simms,
claimed that Pizza Hut was guilty of an unlawful public accommodation
practice. In his initial reaction to the case, Charles Morrison, the
director of the HRC in Pittsburgh, stated that Pizza Hut’s failure to
deliver to the Trusses was most likely a case of “illegal redlining.”

“We wanted to err on the side of caution,” explained Mike Logan, the
local manager of the Pizza Hut, at the HRC hearing. When the store
first opened, located near Pittsburgh’s upper Hill District, a mostly
African-American section of the city, also known as Sugar Top, it
delivered pizza to the Hill. Deliveries were stopped at night only
after the repeated robberies of its drivers. Logan testified that the
sight on TV of white truck driver Reginald Denny being pulled from his
cab and beaten by rioters simply increased the safety concerns of the
company.

Announcing that Pittsburgh’s HRC had “declared war on pizza shops,”
and fearing that they were going to be forced to deliver to unsafe
neighborhoods, a grass-roots group formed the Pittsburgh Pizza Coalition,
organized by Dan Sullivan, a local libertarian activist who had worked a
few months earlier for the same Pizza Hut outlet that he now said was
being smeared by the HRC. “I went to work there when that shop first
opened,” he said. “We went door-to-door in the Hill District,
delivering coupons for discounts on pizzas. The shop definitely wanted
to do business in that neighborhood.”

Sullivan explained what then happened: “We had drivers robbed every
day. We had the same driver robbed three times in one week. They
usually robbed us with a gun. They know we’re not allowed to carry a
gun or more than $20. Drivers would quit after a couple of days.”

Vowing not to give up their rights, or their lives, without a fight,
pizza drivers and shop owners held a demonstration on the steps of
Pittsburgh’s City-County Building. “I won’t die for a $9 pie!” read the
Magic Marker inscription on the raised pizza box lid of Jane Wadsworth,
owner of Pizza Outlet. Her husband, she said, once had a loaded gun
held to his head while delivering. “I’ve been robbed” read the pizza
box sign carried by Alexander Lifshitz, a Russian emigre’ who delivered
pizza to support his family.

“In memory of Jay Weiss,” read another of the homemade signs. Weiss,
a 34-year-old father of three children, was murdered in 1993 while
delivering for Chubby’s Pizza in the Manchester area of Pittsburgh. He
was accompanying another driver, Paul Puhac, who was apprehensive about
delivering alone. Both men were shot, Weiss fatally.

Pittsburgh police reported that a few blocks away, while Weiss was
bleeding to death in the street, two teenagers who lived in an abandoned
house ate the pizza that they’d ordered as a ruse in order to rob the
drivers. The coroner’s deputies at the scene said that people in the
crowd laughed out loud as they removed the body of Jay Weiss. Veteran
homicide detectives shook their heads in disbelief.

At a break in the HRC hearing, I suggested to attorney Simms that the
Pizza Hut case seemed not to be about racial discrimination but about
the store’s concern for the safety of its drivers. “Bulls—!” she
replied, obviously unconvinced that a multinational corporation, or
maybe any business at all I would guess, could have any concern
whatsoever for its employees’ lives. After all, a long political
tradition has been established that only left-wingers and personal
injury attorneys care about deaths on the job. One can only imagine, of
course, how eager Ms. Simms, a personal injury attorney, and her cohorts
would be to sue if any company was found to have forced a driver into a
dangerous area in which he was injured or killed.

“How did you feel when you couldn’t get a pizza?” Simms asked her
clients at the hearing. “I felt sad and ashamed,” replied Carl Truss.
Mrs. Truss testified that she was stewing, spastic, venting, hyper, and
obsessed after the delivery refusal and walked across the street in her
pajamas to visit her attorney friend, Simms, to complain that she
couldn’t get a pizza. Ms. Simms then filed the complaint with the HRC,
resulting in a four year investigation of Pizza Hut.

During the hearing, I wondered how the Trusses would feel if a young
black man, maybe their son, were forced to deliver a pizza to a
neighborhood where the KKK was up in arms. Most of us would consider it
a travesty for a store owner to force a black driver into such an area.

“We had looked at it every which way and couldn’t see Pizza Hut’s
defense as legitimate,” HRC director Morrison initially told the
Pittsburgh newspapers. “More likely than not,” he said, the refusal to
deliver was a case of “racial discrimination.” One wondered if Mr.
Morrison had thought about why Pizza Hut, a company that had grown so
large by meeting customer’s needs, would really want to walk away from
business just so they could discriminate? By the end of the hearing,
following the protests by the Pizza Coalition and the testimony of the
drivers, the HRC had changed its mind and the case against Pizza Hut was
dismissed.

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