Pizza Politics

Letter From Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's Human Relations Commission did the right thing in January in the pizza "redlining" case against Pizza Hut brought by Carl and Shelia Truss. The Trusses, a middle-class black couple who reside in a mixed-race area of well-kept homes in the upper Hill District area of Pittsburgh, also known as Sugar Top, phoned Pizza Hut to order a sausage pizza on the night of May 2, 1992, but were refused delivery due to the rioting in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict.

Shelia Truss told the Pizza Hut clerk that all was peaceful and quiet in her neighborhood. "What does what's going on in California have to do with me?" she asked, upset that she couldn't have her usual weekly delivery. Mrs. Truss, who testified that she was stewing, spastic, venting, hyper, and obsessed after the refusal, walked across the street in her pajamas to visit her attorney friend, Ann Simms, complaining that she could not get a pizza. Ms. Simms then filed a complaint with the Human Relations Commission (HRC), resulting in a four-year investigation into whether Pizza Hut was guilty of unlawful public accommodation practices.

"We wanted to err on the side of caution," testified Mike Logan, Pizza Hut manager, at the HRC hearing. When the store first opened in April 1991, he said. Pizza Hut delivered to the Hill District, but due to several robberies of their drivers, deliveries were curbed. Logan...

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