UWS Asian-Food Crisis Spreads as Labor Problems Hit Ollie’s, Too

The great Asian-Food Apocalypse of 2007 continues, with the protests that have been plaguing Saigon Grill spreading today to the Ollie’s Noodle Shop chain on the Upper West Side, where staffers — deliverymen, waiters, others — filed suit for a string of labor violations. While print reporters took notes and TV cameras rolled, a group of Chinese immigrants — most from Fujian province and claiming they were paid only $1.40 an hour — gathered at the Lincoln Center location to announce the legal action. David Colodny, a lawyer with the Urban Justice Center, filed the federal suit on behalf of 44 workers at three of the five Ollie’s locations — Lincoln Center, Times Square, and West 84th Street — for violating minimum-wage and other employment laws.

Most of the plaintiffs are members of the Chinese Staff and Workers Association, a militant labor-rights group which last week announced a suit against Saigon Grill on behalf of its locked-out deliverymen. The owners of Ollie’s were unavailable for comment, but Ben Li, a manager at the Lincoln Center location, said he was “surprised” by the crowd outside his door, which led him to call 911. Sure enough, a couple of NYPD patrol cars arrived to check out the scene at around 1:30 p.m. Did they expect to make arrests? “That depends on them,” said one of the boys in blue. Meanwhile, service and deliveries are expected to continue at all Ollie’s locations. —Mary Reinholz