By Lisa Mak
Making the headlines this week was a landmark $4 million backpay and compliance settlement for 280 current and former workers at the popular Yank Sing restaurant in San Francisco. Last summer, a group of Yank Sing employees, with the help of the Chinese Progressive Association and the Asian Law Caucus, complained that the owners of Yank Sing engaged in a slew of labor violations, including theft of wages and tips, failure to pay minimum wages and overtime, and denying workers their meal and rest breaks. The violations, according to California Labor Commissioner Julie Su, were “pretty blatant.”
Unfortunately, employee wage theft and labor violations are very common in the restaurant industry. For example, workers brought claims last year against a Los Angeles restaurant, Izakaya Fu-ga, for wage theft, failure to provide breaks, and retaliation against workers who asserted their rights. An announcement is also expected soon regarding a settlement with restaurants in the El Mercadito complex in the Los Angeles Boyle Heights neighborhood that will pay $220,000 in back wages to workers and provide improved sick and vacation leave.
The Yank Sing crackdown is a good reminder that people serving us our food often make too little to put food on their own table. Aljazeera recently covered the issue in its “Fault Lines” series, highlighting the prevalence of wage theft in the restaurant industry.