About twenty current Gourmet Heaven employees came out today at 5:30 to counter activists’ and fired workers’ weekly picket of the popular campus deli. Holding up signs encouraging students to end the boycott, the demonstrating workers chanted “Leave!” in Spanish, drowning out the activists’ usual chants.
“They say they want to help us but they’re actually screwing us over,” said Reynaldo Garcia, a worker at GHeav of two years. “We’re doing this to defend our jobs. We had no problems or complaints.”
In an interview with the current staff earlier in the day, none of the roughly twenty workers present said they had ever been paid lower than the minimum wage. Workers said they were worried that the diminished business from the boycott would cause them to lose their jobs. Workers evaded questions about the $140,000 owner Chung Cho paid out to 25 workers in back wages in a settlement made with the Department of Labor in December. None of the workers present said they received back wages.
“If they didn’t pay us enough we would be out there protesting too. No one would be here,” said Tania Vidales, cashier for two years.
Though the workers are being paid at least minimum wage and overtime now, activists from La Unidad Latina en Accion and MEChA de Yale continue the picket in protest of the allegedly retaliatory firing of four workers who cooperated with the DOL in November. Investigators are currently looking into whether the firings were unlawful.
Current workers are continuing to distribute pamphlets explaining that the activists are lying about injustices at GHeav.
Unidad Latina en Accion activist John Lugo told students and protestors that the many of the workers were being pressured into demonstrating against their interests. Another ULA activist Megan Fountain said many of the demonstrators were not current workers but rather friends and family members of the manager, and that they were mostly in higher-paid positions.
“Many of them have been made fearful of losing their jobs, but our interest is to keep them employed and making fair wages,” she said. “We will continue to stand with workers who have testified to the DOL and need justice.”