After months of picket lines and protests, four former workers at Cafe Goodfellas who complained of wage theft have been paid the full $23,636.10 they were owed by the restaurant’s owner.
The workers, who sought compensation for not being paid minimum wage or overtime while working at Goodfellas in late 2009 and early 2010, received payment on Tuesday, nearly five months after the New Haven Workers Association began a protest campaign for their cause, members of the association said. John Chavez, a spokesperson for the United States Department of Labor, confirmed that the workers picked up their checks from the labor department’s New Haven office Tuesday.
Though the New Haven Workers Association had put pressure on Goodfellas to pay the workers since December 2010, the resolution of the dispute came soon after the organization’s April 20 picket outside the restaurant.
Goodfellas owner Gennaro Iannaccone said the U.S. labor department called him on the morning of that day, before the workers picketed, to request a meeting. He met with labor department officials on April 22, he said, and decided to pay the workers the money they demanded in full, rather than making a lesser settlement.
Despite the fact that he made the payment soon after being contacted by the labor department, Iannaccone said that he was not forced to do so.
“I volunteered that I would re-issue checks for the total amount,” Iannaccone said in an interview Wednesday. “I wanted to get this over with, behind me.”
He and Chavez confirmed that Iannaccone delivered checks for the workers to the labor department this Monday, and the workers accepted them on Tuesday. Chavez added that one of the four workers had previously left for Canada and will receive his check in the mail.
The April 20 protest against Goodfellas — which drew over 30 labor activists, workers, and high school and Yale students —came after the workers’ previous attempts to get money from Iannaccone through the labor department.
Megan Fountain, a member of the New Haven Workers Association, said that in previous negotiations, Iannaccone had agreed to pay the workers $19,600, but later sent the labor department checks for around $10,000, claiming to deduct taxes.
That time, the workers rejected the money, which Fountain said had made a “mockery” of their negotiations. She said they subsequently resolved to accept nothing less than the $23,636.
“What we did [on April 20] was very effective, because I think [Iannaccone] figured out that we’re not going to leave him alone,” New Haven Workers Association member John Lugo said. “I guess he figured it was more worth it to pay the money than to keep fighting with us.”
Goodfellas has been investigated for by the Connecticut Department of Labor for labor violations six times since 2007.