Video by Steve Ahlquist for RI Future.org
On Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 11am, former employees of Gourmet Heaven, together with Fuerza Laboral, RI Jobs with Justice, and other community and labor allies, held their second action at the downtown Providence deli, entering the store to demand to speak directly to manager Mohamed Masaud to demand their unpaid wages and denounce physically dangerous and abusive working conditions. Workers and allies picketed outside the store and demonstrated to the public the kinds of abuses going on at the restaurant through a lively street theater piece directly in front of the store’s entrance. The Gourmet Heaven workers were joined by former employees of another Providence food establishment, Café Atlantic. These six workers have also organized through Fuerza Laboral to file claims with the Department of Labor and Training against their former employer, Juan Noboa, for over $17,000 in unpaid wages. “This is a problem not just at Gourmet Heaven, but in the restaurant and supermarket industry across the city and really across the country,” says Flor Salazar, former Café Atlantic employee and one of the claimants.
“Cho didn’t want to respond the first time we brought these complaints forward,” said Edgar Orellana, former Gourmet Heaven employee, member of Fuerza Laboral, and one of the plaintiffs on the case. “That is why we decided to hold a second public action at his store. We are showing him that this is not a game and we need to keep fighting for our wages.”
Earlier that day before the action, three former employees of Gourmet Heaven filed a case for non-payment of wages with the Rhode Island district federal court. They, along with six other former workers who will be joining the case later this week, are claiming a total of $140,000 in unpaid wages for up to two years working at deli Gourmet Heaven, located at 173 Weybosset St. and their recently closed location at 205 Meeting St. Former employees worked up to 72 hours a week but were only paid between $350 and $400, violating minimum wage and overtime state and federal laws.
Check out press coverage of the action below: