Saturday, April 18, 2015
Tsu Yue Wang: You Reap What You Sow / Go Away We Don't Want You at 2020 Broadway
A phalanx of Chinese restaurant workers called for a boycott of Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Grill today. They claimed that the president of the popular restaurant chain was leading a retaliation and blacklisting effort against restaurant workers across the city who were organizing.
They demonstrated at the Ollie’s at 84th Street on the Upper West Side, chanting, “No justice! No noodles!”
In recent months, a number of workers – in conjunction with labor groups –have protested or filed lawsuits against a number of popular Asian restaurant groups, including Ollie’s, Saigon Grill, Flor de Mayo and Republic, with the backing of Justice Will Be Served, an advocacy group that organizes restaurant, hotel and other service workers.
The workers say the restaurant’s owners have resorted to mass firings, discriminatory hiring processes and demotions. In March, for example, a group of 43 deliverymen, busboys and other employees filed a lawsuit against Ollie’s in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accusing the restaurant chain of violating minimum wage laws.
In May, the restaurant chain then closed down its West 44th Street location, where a number of the lead organizers had worked.
“They are trying to retaliate against the lawsuit,” said Jerry Weng, 28, a Chinese immigrant from Fujian Province who had worked at the West 44th Street restaurant for as little as $2 an hour.
In addition, Mr. Weng and other workers said that the president of Ollie’s, Tsu Yue Wang, had threatened workers on the phone telling them they would not be able to find work because they were on a blacklist.
“The old boss would call the new boss and say these guys are causing problems,” Mr. Weng explained in Mandarin Chinese. The National Labor Relations Board has accused Saigon Grill, the Vietnamese restaurant chain, of breaking the law when its owners fired 22 deliverymen at two locations, who had complained that they were not being paid the minimum wage.
Mr. Wang’s lawyer, Richard Ian Greenberg, did not respond to calls for comment.
Justice Will Be Served said that restaurant owners were discriminating against Fujianese workers who are at the heart of the organizing efforts, preferring instead to hire Latino or other Chinese workers who have weaker social networks and less ability to organize.
Now the campaign is broadening its reach, trying to get Hispanic workers organized. Indeed, the chanters at the protest today switched among Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and English.
Wang has been nicknamed “Flushing’s Sweatshop Kingpin” by previous employees who brought suit against him, won in court, only to be fired when he closed down the businesses named in the suit.
He built a multi-million dollar empire of restaurants, beauty salons, food wholesale, entertainment and real estate and apparently paid his employees only $1.40 an hour and required them to work ten-hour days without overtime, according to former employees.