The U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York charged that the Wu Liang Ye branches on 39th Street and 86th Street (restaurants that were owned by the Chinese government) repeatedly engaged in unethical labor practices, including violating overtime and minimum wage laws. The judgment against the restaurants’ labor practices came down last month, but the owners allegedly found a way around it.
(The role of Wu Liang Ye on 48th Street remains unclear. The New York Times reported that it is independently owned, and not related to the other two on 39th and 86th streets. But Josephine Lee, with the Chinese Staff and Workers Association, says that the three restaurants “acted as one,” and that the 48th Street branch is indeed owned by the Chinese government. The staff at the 48th Street establishment did not immediately respond to a call for comment.)
Instead of complying with the judgment, Lee says that Wu Liang Ye (which means “gem of the state”) simply closed the locations on 39th Street and 86th Street where the restaurant workers were involved in the legal action, putting those employees out of work. The management operations were then allegedly fraudulently transferred to two other Sichuan restaurants in Manhattan: Wa Jael on Second Avenue at 82nd Street, and Lan Sheng, on 39th Street.
A press conference and workers’ protest is scheduled for tomorrow at 12:30 at 36 West 48th Street. Workers are asking consumers to boycott the restaurants until back wages are paid and their jobs reinstated.
More on this story as it develops.