Former Upper West Side Restaurant Employees Continue To Picket Over Back Wages
There is a new chapter in a very high-profile labor dispute at an Upper West Side eatery, which has pitted former workers against the ownership, with $1 million at stake. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
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It's a scene that's repeated outside the Saigon Grill five days a week for more than two years.
Former workers at the restaurant say the owner owes them a million dollars in back wages and he's refusing to pay up.
"We will continue to boycott him," said Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. "We will continue to tell the neighborhood, 'Saigon Grill owners do not obey the law.'"
The current owner wasn't the one who initially ran up the tab. The original owner, Simon Nget, went to jail for underpaying his workers. When he sold the restaurant, the new owners promised to pay the money they were owed. But they haven't. And last week, a state court ruled again that the new owners must pay that money.
"Now, we've got a judgment, but they're still not responding," Yuxing Zhou, a former Saigon Grill worker, said through an interpreter.
The protesters said the new owners promised better working conditions as well, but that hasn't been the case.
Some of the workers protesting alleged that the new owners engaged in age discrimination, firing some of the workers because they were too old and firing some of the younger workers who stood up for them.
"They fired workers who are over 50 years old," said Jinming Cao, a former Saigon Grill worker. "They say that such old people cannot work here. So four younger workers, including me, told the new owner, 'That's age discrimination, don't do that.' So then four younger workers also get fired."
A lawyer for the new ownership said the claims of age discrimination are false. As for as the $1 million judgment, he said his clients understand their legal obligation, but he's unsure if they will even be able to pay, since the continuous picketing has sabotaged their business.
So while all the legal issues continue to play out in courtrooms, on the street, the picketing continues, and this seemingly never-ending dispute goes on, no matter who owns the restaurant.