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Former Comet Cafe employees speak out against unsafe conditions

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Former employees at Comet Cafe are speaking out about unsafe work conditions after the business shut down indefinitely.

The owners say they tried staying open, but were losing too much money due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

But the two former workers say they felt other considerations were at play.

“It seems like instead of trying to work with us to fix those things they would rather fire us all, and kind of save face," former employee Isaiah Santiago said.

Santiago and Judge Dugan say they were some of the employees who spoke up about safety hazards inside Comet Café.

They say a proper COVID-19 plan was never put in place, among other concerns.

“The hood vents did not work so we had regular kitchen temperatures of over 110-degrees," Dugan explained.

So they went to the owner with their demands earlier this week.

And a few days later, they say they were fired.

“They told us, in no uncertain terms, that they were going to meet our demands and then to have them just close the restaurant citing COVID a few days later seems deliberate," Santiago said.

Over the phone, owner Leslie Montemurro told CBS 58 they started addressing troubles after shutting down the Café on July 4.

She said owners didn’t know about any past issues.

She said owners were listening, but believes the staff meeting lead employees to believe repairs, and a reopen, would happen sooner.

Still, Santiago and Dugan are without a job and they say that scares them.

“I know the regular unemployment, my regular benefit rate, does not cover my cost of living," Dugan said.

“I don’t think they realize that there’s a lot of people that don’t qualify," Santiago added.

The men also say they were blindsided by the firing, learning about it in the media.

But the owner says the news was given via an internal scheduling app beforehand.

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