Being lifelong fans of labor strife and (especially) guerrilla street theater, we received this press release with some excitement. We are passing it on without comment, except to ask why this doesn’t happen more often. What could dramatize the struggle of labor versus management better than the preannounced crashing of ritzy parties?
It’s hard out there for a Venetian millionaire. No sooner did the Cipriani boys get the all clear from their federal tax-evasion trial than a major sexual-harassment lawsuit came down upon their heads. Just in time for your weekend reading, Grub Street has acquired a copy of the legal documents; after the jump, allegations of systematic misogyny and insidious put-downs.
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.
We’ve learned that Juan Garcia-Espinoza, a dishwasher who worked at Carmine’s for two and a half years is suing the South Street Seaport dive (no relation to the Upper West Side pasta joint) for allegedly violating overtime laws by paying him a miserly $260 to $300 for workweeks as long as 58 hours. We’ve pointed out that these cases are increasingly becoming “man bites dog,” and the cover story of this week’s Business Week proves it: In the last few years, companies have blown about $1 billion resolving them. At this point wouldn’t even Mr. Burns agree that that money is better spent fairly compensating workers in the first place?
Related:Wage Wars [Business Week]
Tavern on the Green just got hit with major charges — and unlike the accusations made in recent years against the likes of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud, it's not just some irate ex-employees doing the talking. It's the Feds. According to Crain's, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission charges them with “severe and pervasive sexual, racial and national origin harassment,” and for leaning on employees who complained against it. It's a major step, and nothing the famously profitable, famously mediocre eatery can laugh off.
Tavern on the Green Accused of Discrimination [Crain's NY]
Greg Brier, owner of Amalia (where Ivy Stark may checking out), may be in hot water because of alleged labor-law violations at his ski-lodge-themed restaurant, Aspen and we don’t mean the Jacuzzi. Attorney Michael Falliache has brought a lawsuit against Brier and Aspen alleging that six named employees (including line cooks and a dishwasher) worked at pay rates such as $303 for 60 hours per week (i.e. about $5 per hour) with no overtime or regular breaks. “This is a typical case of a restaurant hiring workers who are at a disadvantage and taking advantage of them by not paying them overtime or minimum wage,” Falliache told us. The class-action suit represents the grievances of fifteen workers who, should they win, probably won’t be celebrating with a ski vacation.
Jose Zurita et. al vs. Aspen and Greg Brier [PDF]
In the latest labor-law fiasco, thirteen employees of Wild Edibles, which sells seafood to restaurants like Union Square Cafe and Pastis as well as the general public via its retail stores, have filed a lawsuit against the company for failure to pay overtime. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, David Rankin, and as is evident in copies of the complaint we’ve obtained, the individuals most of them warehouse workers worked in excess of 50 hours a week for flat wages varying from $450 to $550 (“right on the edge of minimum-wage violations,” Rankin says, though he decided not to pursue those charges). Rankin also says that four workers were unjustly fired after they requested overtime pay at the end of August, and that another worker was unfairly written up for stealing fish. A motion for a restraining order, which we’ve also obtained, will be heard in court tomorrow. Between the overfishing and underpaying, caviar is truly getting hard to swallow.
Cesar A. Barturen, et al. vs. Wild Edibles [PDF]
Memorandum in Support of Restraining Order [PDF]
Between dodging trucks and potholes, risking robberies, working endless hours for slave wages in the rain and cold, and having to buy their own bikes and food, the city’s delivery workers have one of the rawest deals in all of New York City. But thanks to suits filed against Saigon Grill, Flor de Mayo, and several other restaurants around town, solidarity and an able use of the American legal system might turn things around. The takeaway quote from this week's piece by noted reporter and author Jennifer Gonnerman? “If we win this case, every restaurant is going to change.” Of course, there are no guarantees in any labor battle. Read on for the New York take.
The Deliverymen’s Uprising [NYM]
Related: Pols Come Out to Support Saigon Grill Workers; Delivery Service Still Suspended [Daily Intel]