Waiters, Supermarket Workers Take a Stand on Wage Theft
Wage theft is a perennial issue for immigrants in New York City. Two recent El Diario La Prensa stories tell of low-wage immigrant workers — at a restaurant and a supermarket — fighting back against bosses that they say exploited them.
* Employees of Kum Kang San, a Korean restaurant in Flushing, Queens, have sued the owners, alleging that Ji Sung Yoo, the restaurant chain’s owner, paid less than minimum wage and stole tips. The complaint was filed on behalf of three Latinos and six Koreans by attorneys for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and LatinoJustice, an civil rights organization, El Diario reported. A translated excerpt follows below.
Latino workers Eduardo Aguilar and Julián Ventura have worked in the Flushing restaurant since 2005 and Eutemio Morales, since 2006, according to Elizabeth Joynes, a lawyer for LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
“The lawsuit began with 30 employees, but only nine stayed after the owner made threats,” said the group’s lawyer. “We were granted a temporary order prohibiting Yoo from making reprisals against them. Thursday we return to court to see if we can get a permanent order.”
Restaurant workers in New York do not have to be paid a minimum wage because their tips are included in their wages, Queens Tribune reported. But the complaint says that while some employees regularly worked 40-hour weeks, that management took percentages of tips and that some employees were forced to work for free at other restaurants.
“Ji Sung Yoo used threats to trap vulnerable immigrant workers into an abusive situation,” said Bethany Li, staff attorney at AALDEF. “Mr. Yoo subjected them to unpaid labor, poverty wages, and abuse. They are showing tremendous courage by standing up against worker exploitation.”
* Employees of a Kensington, Brooklyn supermarket have launched a boycott with the backing of New York Communities for Change, a social justice organization, El Diario reported. The workers, who have been campaigning for more than a year, allege that the owners of Golden Farm supermarket owe them thousands of dollars in back pay.
Lucas Sánchez, an NYCC organizer, said that from Aug. 18 until an undetermined stop-date, he invites neighbors to not buy from a company with serious labor violations.
“The residents welcomed the campaign with open arms. Many customers stopped buying their groceries there. There is real support for our Latino workers.”