Wage theft has been a recurring issue for New York City’s Latino community. On March 21, former workers at the restaurant Plaza Garibaldi in Elmhurst, Queens, held a protest, claiming they were cheated out of wages due to them. Below is the translation from Spanish of an El Diario La Prensa article by Gloria Medina on last week’s protest.
Yesterday [March 21], five female ex-workers of the Plaza Garibaldi restaurant in Queens demanded that their former boss pay them $27,000 in wages that they say they earned over months of working there.
The women, all of them Mexican, said that the restaurant manager, Antonio Ganoa, hired them in October of 2011 to work for $350 a week, but then made various excuses and didn’t pay them the money.
“I was hired as a cook. They only paid me for two weeks and I worked there for three months,” said Celina Alvarez, 48.
Like Alvarez, the other women said they had toiled for 12-hour periods, six days a week without compensation.
Anallely Alvarado, 26, said she had worked making tamales, washing plates, grinding meat, serving food to customers and sometimes even taking on the role of a waitress. “Sometimes I had to work a double shift and they didn’t pay me,” she added.
Magdalena Barbosa, a lawyer who works for the organization Make the Road New York and represents the five women, said that the restaurant has a history of violating labor laws. The women are hoping to reach a settlement with the owner of the restaurant, and if that doesn’t work, they will file a lawsuit through the Department of Labor.
Ganoa could not be located to comment on the women’s grievances.
The restaurant’s owner, Cosme Téllez, defended himself in a telephone interview, saying that he had rented the part of the business focused on serving food to Ganoa, and that it was Ganoa who hired the women.
“I rented out the place to Antonio in October and I had to shut it down because he didn’t pay me rent,” said Téllez. “I didn’t have anything to do with the people that he hired, and now I can’t find him so he can pay me my money. On top of that, he got me tangled up in problems.”