Labor activists, ousted employees, and local politicians gathered outside Saigon Grill’s uptown location to cheer a validating September 28 complaint against the restaurant issued by the National Labor Relations Board. In March, Saigon Grill sacked 22 workers who had taken steps to join the 318 Restaurant Workers Union. The NLRB also found that Saigon Grill’s owners promised pay raises (above a reported $1.60 an hour) to those who stayed away from the union and videotaped the employees who participated in regular demonstrations outside the Amsterdam Avenue restaurant and its University Place counterpart.
Politicians and unionists today declared the complaint a bellwether, with repercussions for similar organizing from the Cottage to Flor de Mayo to Ollie’s to Republic. “The NLRB acted swiftly, which shows how egregious the violations are,” local assembly member Linda Rosenthal told us. “Workers are heartened to see the support.”
We were a little sickened to hear the details, which according to Steven Wong of the Chinese Restaurant Workers Anti-Violence Society included 70-hour workweeks with no lunch break and owners forcing workers to pay back lost revenue if they got robbed. “This is America,” Wong shouted after the politicians had had their say. “If they don’t change, we will put them on the grill.” Now, owners have until October 12 to rehire the workers or otherwise answer the charges: After that, they go before a judge on October 30. The Justice Will Be Served Campaign, which organized the efforts against Saigon Grill, encourages supporters to maintain the boycott. —Alec Appelbaum
Related: The Deliveryman’s Uprising [NYM]