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Sweatshop Free Upper West Side Rallies the Troops to Battle Saigon Grill

Saigon Grill is associated more with being the site of labor disputes than for the Vietnamese cuisine it dishes up. It's been embroiled in battles since 2007, and picketers and protesters are a common occurrence in front of the restaurant. Even though the restaurant has been under new ownership since 2010, employees say that working conditions haven't improved. But now the Sweatshop Free Campaign has launched to help bring about justice and stick it to the man.

Over the weekend, the group -- led by residents, students, and community organizations -- came together to protest against Saigon Grill. According to the Columbia Spectator, among the 100 or so protesters in attendance were New York state senators Adriano Espaillat and Tom Duane, along with City Council member Gale Brewer and state Assembly member Linda Rosenthal.

Saigon Grill is a focal point for the Sweatshop Free Upper West Side. Yet according to its website, the "Sweatshop Free Campaign marks a new stage, calling on the entire community to join and create a supportive neighborhood that upholds ethical business practices."

As of Friday, the organization has inspired other neighborhood restaurants and businesses to pledge being sweatshop-free, including Hartley Pharmacy, Apple Tree Supermarket, Flor De Mayo Restaurant, Suba Compounding Pharmacy, Mama Mexico Restaurant , Sol Y Sombra Restaurant, Popover Café, and Famous Amadeus Pizza. Which is noble, yes, but it's important to remember that being sweatshop-free should be standard practice, not the reason for getting a gold star.

Have a tip or restaurant-related news? Send it to fork@villagevoice.com.

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