Heard It Through the Vine: Protesters at Vine Sushi

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A small cadre of protesters amassed outside Vine Sushi this afternoon, holding up signs and offering handouts to passerby.

When asked why they were protesting, they explained that they were former Tomo employees. Their claim is that, after trying to unionize, Tsu Yue Wang, who owns Ollie’s, Tomo and Vine, shut down Tomo in retaliation.

The protesters wanted their jobs back and the right to unionize, as well as an increase in their pay, which they claim was under two dollars an hour. When called, a Vine representative said they could not comment since the manager was not in. More photos after the jump.


– Additional photos by CEE 

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  1. anon  

    The establishments near Columbia never seem to stop exploiting their workers, and the establishments in Columbia never seem to stop exploiting the students. Columbia sucks.

  2. ...

    i mean, that sucks for the workers but the owner doesn't have any obligation to them

    i'm sure the owner can't afford unionized workers and the fact that they had to shut down 1 out of their 3 restaurants is probably proof of them not being in the best financial condition

  3. anon  

    But he does have an obligation to follow labor laws. I don't dispute that he might be, but I strongly suspect that there is some exploitation going on, just on the basis of recent precedent.

  4. Knowledge

    Current NY Labor law cites that wait staff in restaurants have a minimum wage of $4.60/hr plus tips. And with tips, they must make over the minimum wage of $6.55/hr. If the workers, who allegedly were paid under $2/hr, attempted to unionize with the intention of using the union as leverage to increase their wages to the legal NYC limit and were fired because of it, then the owner is indeed liable for a wage & hour claim, retaliation and wrongful termination.

    The owner would be liable for up to 6 yrs of back wages to cover the difference btw what the employees should have been paid at minimum wage and what they were actually paid. Because of the wrongful termination the owner would be liable for front wages for an estimated amount of time that it would take the employee to find another job, which in this economy could be a substantial amount of time. The retaliation/wrongful termination also carries with it punitive emotional damages which could be quite high as well.

    The recent Saigon Grill incident is one of the most egregious examples of this type of behavior, but many many major restaurants around the city have settled lawsuits for similar allegations.

    Obviously I make no judgment as to the guilt of the owner or to the truth of the workers' claims since I am not involved.

  5. unpaid intern  

    this situation sounds atrocious, but I know hordes of upper-middle class ivy league sophisticates who are even more exploited

    • disgusting

      You're an entitled, upper-middle class ivy brat who doesn't have to support him/herself with $2/hr. Don't complain about having to do menial labor as an intern when you have Mommy and Daddy to support you when you need it.

      • middle class  

        yea exactly.. i was about to say the same to #5.. try working in their shoes for $2/hr

      • sarcasm alert!  

        you'd think that the phrase "upper-middle class ivy league sophisticates" would have given it away...

      • Idiot

        You are. Just because you attend Columbia doesn't make you upper-middle class or spoiled. I'm an alum and grew up in a single parent household that was below the poverty line. I thought it was pretty sick that these corporations that were making millions were expecting me to come in and work for nothing during the summer when I had to pay my own bills. I couldn't afford to take an unpaid internship and that stinks for some people. So, in the future #10 I hope you realize generalizations are not your friend and that some people who go to Columbia have had it hard in the past.

    • true...but  

      you're right, but working for a firm is just an external cost for a career that will later make you a lot more than a bicycle-driving delivery person

    • Hahaha  

      S'ok #5, i got your joke.
      It sure can be fun to rile up the hypersensitive, self-entitled children that write the bwog comments.

      Or, at least, i really, really hope that's what you were going for.

  6. I think  

    there was something about Ollie's paying their workers $2/hr in the past, although it could have been a downtown Ollie's. But I highly doubt the owners shutting down their business was an act of vengeance.

  7. Just a I suspected  

    I knew there was something fishy about Vine - and it wasn't just the horrid sushi.

    Vine is simply a re-branded incarnation of Tomo, notorious for its exploitation of workers and racist treatment of customers. (Almost every Columbia student has I am sure a short about this). I am ordinarily not an activist type, but I this case, I would support an organized boycott of Vine.

  8. What a  

    bunch of Viners.

  9. !!!!!  

    SPRING BREAKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!


  10. my full name  


  11. waaaaaaah

    The world is unfair! Waaaah!

    Surprising that Columbia accepted these folk given that it has taken them so long to figure out something that is evident to any grade schooler.

  12. well

    I'm not surprised that Columbia accepted someone like you who is content with the unfairness that there is and perhaps doesn't care that there are even laws to stop it. You belong right on the cover of the brochures.

    • not content

      just a pragmatist and not a hypocrite. It is impossible to undo the unfairness in this world. even if you do help the employees of vine, you aren't getting rid of the unfairness of the world. It will still exist.

      The truth is, not all people have equal ability. Nor do they accrue equal status. Oh well, them's the breaks.

      It's not like you would have people with 540 SAT scores receive admission to Columbia, would you? Isn't it unfair that you get a better education than 99% of the world?

      • not the same

        Just because you can't help everyone doesn't mean you shouldn't help those who you are able to help. Should people not have fought against slavery, since we can't 100% eliminate discrimination? If you know how to do CPR and come across someone who needs CPR, should you not help them because there will always be some other person who is dying around the same time who you can't help?

        There's also the issue of equality versus legal compliance. Columbia isn't obligated to accept everyone. However, once Columbia does accept students, it has to follow the law. For example, Vine is paying workers less than half of what they are required to pay them. The workers were fired for requesting fair pay. What if after you enrolled, Columbia tried to charge you more than twice as much as its official tuition price, and then threatened to kick you out or fail you if you didn't pay extra? Columbia doesn't have to admit anyone who they don't want to admit; Vine/Swish doesn't have to hire anyone they don't want to hire. But once someone is admitted or hired somewhere, there is a contract and both parties must abide by the contract and by US law.

      • hmm

        "them's the breaks" is a convenient mantra as long as you're born rich and white, isn't it?

        • well

          What if you aren't white or rich, but still believe in the power and rights of the individual over the collective?

          Most unions are corrupting forces that keep their members down. The days of Norma Rae are not with us anymore.

          To quote Elihu Smails (via Harold Ramis) "The world needs ditchdiggers, too."

          • holy

            shit are you seriously arguing on the behalf of an employer mass-firing her employees instead of paying them above two bucks an hour under the justification that she represents the "power and right of the individual over the collective"?

            what's it like living in galt's gulch? is it as fascist as i imagine it to be?

      • ...  

        there are two ideas that some columbia kids like to beat to death that makes them sound like self absorbed naive twerps:

        + "you're an idiot, i can't believe columbia would admit you"

        + " i will never donate a damn penny to this school because they took away the spicy chicken"

        just stop. please.

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