Tomorrow at a rally in front of Flushing’s Guang Zhou, two former waiters, Li Rong Gao and Xiao Hong Zheng, will announce a lawsuit against the restaurant (the rally is expected to be 100 strong and will also include workers of Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Wu Liang Ye, in addition to sweatshop workers in other industries). Wendy Cheung, who is organizing the protest on behalf of Justice Will Be Served!, tells us the two women (one of them a captain) were paid a flat rate of $400 and $600 per month, which ended up being below minimum wage since they usually worked more than ten hours per day (five and a half days a week) without overtime pay. They also say the owners took a percentage of their tips.
Cheung says that on June 1, 2009, all of the restaurant’s employees were fired. The owners are said to have transferred ownership to a manger who, under the new corporate name Ji Shiang (ironically enough, the previous corporation’s name was Perfect Team), promptly hired back everyone except the plaintiffs and reopened the restaurant under the same name. Cheung says that the original owners still have an interest in the restaurant: “In these cases, the employers want to say they’re no longer related to the restaurant, that they don’t have any liability. But it’s still the same entity.”
Add to this that the waiters are accusing the original owners of discrimination. Says Cheung: “The workers were told that because they were troublemakers and Fujianese, [the owners said] ‘we’re never going to hire Fujianese again.’” (The owners are said to be from outside of Shanghai). Cheung says the workers are filing the collective-action lawsuit despite the fact that they may be blacklisted: “Flushing is very small. Because a lot of people know that they’re standing up against the work conditions, it will be difficult for them to find work in other places in Flushing.” The rally takes place at noon tomorrow, and you can read the complaint below.