Labor Unrest

Fired Kawa Sushi Employee Picketing Restaurant

Photo: Shanna Ravindra

Oh, these hot and heavy food fights! Kawa Sushi publicly shamed and fired Tian Wen Ye last October, but now the delivery manager is picketing his former employer daily. The Chinese Staff and Workers Association is joining Ye in his protest, and also claim that he was fired for trying to start a union.

Last Friday, the 318 Restaurant Union filed a complaint against Kawa Sushi with the National Labor Relations Board in Manhattan, claiming that Kawa management sent underlings to threaten him and other workers for their union activities. We talked to Ye outside the restaurant last week. He was holding a placard that read “Boycott Kawa Sushi” as patrons entered and left in the freezing cold. He denied being rude to customers. “I worked there for so many years (starting in 2005) and I never had a complaint from a customer,” he said through an interpreter.

Mika Nagasaki, 25, an organizer for Chinese Staff who was picketing with Ye, said Kawa Sushi managers compelled other employees to “retaliate against him.” One worker, she claimed, “grabbed his hand and the other tried to punch him. But he ducked the punch and ran away.” She said Ye was fired shortly after filing a complaint with the NYPD.

Kawa Sushi management disagrees. “The gentleman is making things up,” said an English-speaking friend of one of the restaurant bosses who declined to give his name. “Nobody pulled a punch on him. And we called the police the second day after Ye did when he sent a friend of his over to hit the chef in the kitchen. I think the problem started when [Ye] pressed charges against the company over not getting minimum wages. But he’s totally lying.”

Ye and three others were fired from Kawa Sushi in 2007, after, he claims, complaining about minimum-wage law violations to the New York Department of Labor. The four were subsequently rehired, but now Ye, a father of two in Brooklyn, is out on the street again. “I’m fighting to get my job back,” he says.

Fired Kawa Sushi Employee Picketing Restaurant