By Jennifer 8. Lee | November 14, 2007
I did a blog post on City Room on Wednesday about Chinese restaurant workers organizing for City Room. With chants of â€œNo Justice! No Noodles!â€ (you got to love that) Chinese restaurant workers called for a boycott of Ollieâ€™s Noodle Shop and Grill restaurants yesterday, claiming that the president of the popular restaurant chain was leading a retaliation and blacklisting effort against restaurant workers.
There has been a lot of hubbub around restaurant organizing in the last several months as labor groups (such as Justice Will Be Served) have helped workers protest or file lawsuits against a number of popular Asian restaurant groups, including Ollieâ€™s, Saigon Grill, Flor de Mayo and Republic. Basically delivery men and restaurant workers are pretty miserable creatures in the economic ecosystem of New York City.
The workers say the restaurant owners have resorted to mass firings, discriminatory hiring processes, and demotions. In March, for example, a group of 43 deliverymen, busboys and other employees filed a lawsuit against Ollieâ€™s in Manhattan federal court, accusing the restaurant of violating minimum wages laws. The restaurant chain then closed down its West 44th Street location in May, where a number of the lead organizers had worked. That location was around the corner from the old Times building, I remember being struck that it had suddenly gone “poof” and disappeared. They said the president of Ollieâ€™s, Tsu Yue Wang, had threatened workers on the phone telling them they would not be able to find work because they were on a blacklist. The National Labor Relations Board has accused two location of Saigon Grill, the popular Vietnamese restaurant, of breaking the law when they fired 22 deliverymen who complained that they were not being paid the minimum wage.
One of the more interesting accusations is that the workers claim the owners are discriminating against Fujianese workers who are at the heart of the organizing, preferring instead to hire Latino or northern Chinese workers. (The Fujianese make up the majority of Chinese restaurant workers in the U.S. these days. And they have strong social networks)
One of the neat things about the protest, which took place at West 84th and Broadway, was the Latino workers joined in. So the chants switched between English, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Trilingual boycotts!
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