In 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.