Apr

25

Saigon Grilling

Written by

sdfsIn March, the news broke that Saigon Grill had locked out its delivery workers after they demanded fair wages, and they’ve been picketing the restaurant’s three locations since. Today, Bwog took a trip down to 90th and Amsterdam to check out the scene, where about ten Columbia students joined as many workers in handing out flyers, gathering signatures for a petition, and booing passersby who continued, stonyfaced, into the restaurant.

“We are not slaves! Give us back our dignity!” read one sign. Protesters boomed in the rain, “Two dollars, no way! What do we want? Fair Pay!”

According to Asian American Alliance member Ryan Fukumori, the Saigon Grill management had instituted an “ethnic hierarchy” by which Latino cooks and busboys were paid minimum wage while the delivery workers, mostly immigrants from China’s Fujian province (none of the men at the protest spoke English), received only $1.60 per hour (Spec has details of other abuses). The workers, organized by the Chinese Staff and Workers Union’s Justice Will Be Served! campaign, are now calling for a boycott–which must have unsettled patrons inside the packed eatery. Ownership has declined to comment, but after a month with no delivery business (according to a flyer, the three locations bring in $2 million per month collectively), Bwog would guess that they’d be hurting.

Meanwhile, the Grill may lose another kind of business–they’re currently on Columbia SDA’s list of preferred vendors, getting first crack at catering free food events. The list is up for revision in September, and SDA administrator Robert Taylor said in an e-mail today that the business could be taken off with enough evidence of abusive practices.

Although Bwog doesn’t think Columbians will be ordering Saigon Grill anytime soon anyway.

– LBD

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20 Comments

  1. racist  

    lydia,
    you are nice but don't fuckin moralize to me about where i should order my food from. or about ending sentences with prepositions.
    ta ta,
    racist.

    • Food Critic  

      Calm down, racist, for all you know she might have been saying you wouldn't order from there anyway because it's a shitty restaurant.

      But I don't think discussing abuses at Saigon Grill and implying that you are part of a group that might not order from them isn't egregious moralizing, it's just telling the news and assuming you're not an asshole.

      confused - illegal Mexicans can get paid more according to the article

      • confused  

        First of all, Latino cooks and busboys NOT EQUAL illegal mexicans.
        If they're gettting paid minimum wage they're probably NOT illegal, otherwise minimum wage is a pretty arbitrary amount to pay.

        Second of all - if you're right that the busboys and waiters are illegal, then that's a huge difference in wages. And Saigon [fuckign bastards] would only pay the mexicans so much more if that's what all mexicans are paid.

        This would mean that all illegal mexicans in the city are paid min wage (don't know what it is, but def. over $5) whereas all illegal Fuijanese are paid $1.60

        Do you honestly believe that's possible?

        • Food Critic  

          Yeah, I sort of bought into the "racial hierarchy" and believed that they were saying it was based on race and not legal status.
          It does appear that it is a function of the job - they work delivery (even though it is hard and sometimes dangerous) in part because they can get tips, and the employers take advantage of that and illegally pay them less before tips.

  2. confused  

    If $1.60 and hour is the going rate for illegal labor, then why doesn't Saigon just find some other illegal delivery pps?

    A powerful labor union can maintain a strike, because they can scare other workers away from crossing the picket line. But what's to prevent illegal Mexicans from crossing this Fuijanese picket line?

    And if $1.60 is way below the going rate, then why don't the workers just find other jobs. They can offer to work for $1.80 and anyone would hire them.

    I just dont fucking get it.

  3. Fujian  

    province workers are treated badly in China and made to do hands-dirty, menial jobs, almost like a caste system. The allegation is that they're being given the worst jobs & being paid the least on grounds of being "inferior" Fujianese

  4. boy!  

    it must suck to be born into an inferior race.

  5. under new york law  

    mimimum wage is $7.15.

    for tipped restaurant workers specifically it is $4.60, with a maxiumum 'tip credit against minimum wage' of $2.55. which brings it back up to $7.15

    [http://www.dol.gov/esa/programs/whd/state/tipped.htm]

    confused: saigon grill cannot hire other workers as they would then be discriminating against their locked out employees for organizing.

    (employee sanctions under the immigration act also means that these workers technically cannot be rehired though which seems a bit of a grey area)

  6. or...  

    ...owners can withhold tips, knowing their employees can't complain to anyone in power. It's a sad state of affairs. Boycott these scumbag owners.

  7. tip in cash  

    Tip in cash.
    It's the best way to go.

  8. the lowdown  

    Well, the owners have been stealing tips, albeit indirectly. They charged the delivery workers with ridiculous fees like $200 if their orders were stolen on route, if the employees shut the door inside the restaurant too loudly, or if they fumbled an order... excuses that the employers would use to take away what the tips the delivery workers earned per order. The fines were so exorbitant the owners used this as a deliberate mechanism to drain the delivery workers of whatever tip money they could get...

    and the racial /class stratification thing is definitely being exploited by the employers. the fujianese have been forced to work in the least desirable conditions (delivery service) while the latinos are assigned busboy duties, and i guess mostly han chinese are working as waitresses and waiters. i mean, if you're doubting this, you can see for yourself and talk to the workers as we're protesting outside... and perhaps even look in and notice an immediate difference in who's serving as what.

  9. 5:42am  

    Damn - how can I trust anyone who writes at 5:42 am. Why the hell would anyone be up that late or that early?

    Seriously, you have good analysis (though I don't know where the hell your info comes from - but you sound pretty informed.)

  10. Standards&Practices  

    Is Lydia the only person who writes these types of posts? It seems like she does most of the "serious" stories, and everyone else gets to fill in with round the clock bits of amusement.

    And, I agree with the first post. There's plenty of room for opinion in the comments section. Who cares what Bwog thinks? Reader doesn't.

    • Lydia  

      Allow me to clarify that last, ill-advised last line: I meant that both students and administrators are unlikely to order Saigon Grill in the near future because of the stigma created by this campaign, not that you're a bad person if you do.

      And yes, Bwog needs more reporters. Contact us if you're interested.

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