The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s New Jersey- Asian American Legal Project (AALDEF NJ-AALP), announced a major victory for seven Korean restaurant workers in their hard fought campaign for unpaid wages. After months of leafleting and picketing Dokdo Sarang Restaurant, the workers have recovered $48,000 from their former employer, David Yoon, who deliberately failed to pay the workers their lawful wages. The restaurant is now doing business as Palisades Restaurant in Palisades Park, New Jersey.
“These workers were committed to work together to assert their rights to be paid, to prove that workers have power, to show that employers will not get away with breaking the law by not paying their workers, and to ensure that justice is served. This is a great success story of the workers’ hard work, resilience, and solidarity,” said, Elizabeth Koo, AALDEF NJ-AALP Program Associate.
The former workers–two chefs, three cooks, and two sushi chefs–all toiled up to seven days a week for nearly 80 hours each week, working hard to help the restaurant thrive. But when their employer repeatedly broke his promises, failed to properly pay them for their work, and even issued bad checks, the workers had no choice but to quit and take action.
The workers’ campaign began in March of this year when they presented their former employer with a demand letter for their wages. When the employer refused to pay, the workers started leafleting and picketing in front of the restaurant demanding that David Yoon pay immediately. The workers’ campaign received tremendous community support.
“We were determined to fight until we won and were paid our money. We worked hard and it was a long journey but the hard work paid off. We learned from this experience that if workers organize they can fight and win against bad bosses,” said, Mr. Song, a former cook for Dokdo Restaurant.
Mr. Na, a former chef for Dokdo Restaurant, said, “We felt weak when we were fighting this as individuals but when we came together and started working as a team, we realized how strong we were. Support from the community, from other workers, and from AALDEF made a very big difference in our struggle and our victory.”
Aparna Garg, AALDEF NJ-AALP Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow, said, “Labor exploitation has serious consequences for workers and their families, especially in these tough economic times. AALDEF will aggressively pursue justice for immigrant workers by holding unscrupulous employers accountable for their actions.”
Since 2005, AALDEF NJ-AALP has worked closely with the Asian immigrant community by providing free legal advice, conducting ‘Know Your Rights’ seminars, and representing Asian immigrant workers in lawsuits for unpaid wages, minimum wage, and overtime violations. NJ-AALP has won more than $300,000 in back wages on behalf of Asian immigrants working in New Jersey. Individuals seeking assistance may contact the AALDEF NJ-AALP helpline at (888) 406-1555. Language assistance is available.