Celebrating State Bill 914 and admonishing wage theft, roughly 20 members and supporters of Unidad Latina en Accion gathered outside La Carreta, a Mexican fast-food locale at 930 State St. Thursday evening.
In June, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law State Bill 914, guaranteeing employees suffering from wage theft a payout twice as much as the sum they lost in wages. On Thursday, the bill came into effect, and ULA took to the streets in order to draw attention to wage theft in New Haven.
ULA organizer John Lugo alleged that the owners of La Carreta owe an ex-employee $35,000 in unpaid wages but have only offered him $15,000 in compensation. Other Elm City locales, including student favorites Thai Taste and 116 Crown, have also paid their workers below minimum wage, ULA claimed in a Thursday press release.
“Today is the first day this new law is going to be taking effect … We want to create a warning that several businesses are still stealing wages from workers,” Lugo said.
Lugo said the bill will hold employers more accountable when wage theft cases arise. ULA’s press release also said the bill’s punitive consequences will help deter employers from exploiting workers.
Jim Crombie and Dan Fischer, two members of the Industrial Workers of the World — an international labor union — said they attended the movement to show solidarity with immigrant workers who deserve a fair wage.
“We’re showing some respect to the roots of the history of our organization by standing with ULA today,” Fischer said.
ULA’s protest drew attention from several spectators who honked as they drove past La Carreta or watched from across the street. But not all observers were in full support of ULA’s endeavors.
Rosalba Portillo, who works at a liquor store near La Carreta and knows the owners and employees of the restaurant, said ULA’s decision to base their protest outside La Carreta was unfair to the owners.
Portillo said she does not believe the ex-employee accusing La Carreta of wage theft actually worked over 14 hours daily, seven days a week. Portillo said the ex-employee often visited the liquor store during his breaks from work, adding that her own daughters came to know him when they visited La Carreta.
Portillo added that she knows several past employees at La Carreta who have not complained of wage theft. On one occasion, she said, La Carreta’s owners continued paying an employee who could not work because of an injury. Portillo added that La Carreta even bought plane tickets to Mexico for an employee travelling to a parent’s funeral.
But Lugo stood firmly on his belief that La Carreta owes an employee $35,000, explaining that ULA calculated the sum by asking the worker to complete a form indicating when he entered and left work each day.
ULA was founded in 2002.