The universe of restaurant delivery workers is murky at best. Mostly we leave it there for fear that a new set of regulations and labor laws could, like this insane Department of Health crack-down, cut us off from our go-to delivery joints. Let be honest: New York without food delivery is as frightening an idea as there is and not one we want to spend more time than we have to thinking about.
But the last few weeks have played stage to a battle between Saigon Grill and their delivery workers, beginning with a lockout two weeks ago; the situation has now escalated to court proceedings the papers for which were filed on Wednesday with the NY Southern District court. We've gotten a copy of the complaint the workers of Saigon Grill filed collectively -- more precisely, the complaint was filed by Kenneth Kimmerling of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who is representing the workers -- and it ain't a pretty picture over there at everyone's favorite neighborhood Asian/Vietnamese standby.
Here are some of the facts presented by the workers ("Plaintiffs"):
29. Plaintiffs were paid a monthly amount by Defendants. Those on a full day shift are paid about $520 a month. Those who work half-day shifts are paid about $347. There was some variation in these pay rates for variations in the shift hours. Most delivery 6 personnel plaintiffs earned between about $1.70 an hour to $2.45 an hour. All were paid well below the minimum wage.
31. Defendants irregularly gave checks to some of the plaintiffs. However, these were not wage payments. Plaintiffs were required to cash the checks and return the cash to the Defendants.
42. If money was stolen or robbed from a plaintiff, he was required to pay the Defendants for the amount stolen.
43. If a customer had received the wrong order, Plaintiffs was required to pay for that order.
44. Defendants regularly “fined” the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were fined $200 if a customer complained about a late make-up order. Plaintiffs were fined $50 for “slamming” the restaurant door. Plaintiffs were fined $20 if they fail to register that they have left with a particular delivery.
48. Defendants asked those Plaintiffs, who were still in their employ, to sign statement
saying that they had been paid the proper minimum wage and overtime pay.
49. These statements were false, and Plaintiffs refused to sign them.
50. In retaliation, in March 2007, Defendants fired all of the Plaintiffs, who were still in their employ.
· Complaint: YU G. KE, SHU HUA CHEN, et al v. SAIGON GRILL, INC [.pdf download]
· Labor Troubles at Saigon Grill Mean No Deliver for You [Oxfeld]
· Pols Come Out to Support Saigon Grill Workers; Delivery Service Still Suspended[Oxfeld]