When Workers Organize — We All Win
I have some wonderful news to share with you.
Today, we are excited to announce a $4 million dollar landmark settlement and model workplace changes for workers at Yank Sing, one of the most well known and popular dim sum restaurants in San Francisco and the country. At the heart of this story is the triumph of a group of unexpected worker leaders who collectively organized and transformed their workplace.
Last year, CPA began organizing Chinese immigrant workers from Yank Sing, and over a period of months, a handful of workers grew to nearly 100 current and former workers. Through workplace actions such as worker and community delegations, letters and calls to management, and a collective rest break action, these workers, mostly monolingual Chinese immigrant women, worked together to transform their workplace and set a new standard for model employers in the restaurant industry.
The settlement, which affects 280 workers, was the result of a collaboration between CPA, Asian Law Caucus, the California Labor Commissioner, and the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. Yank Sing stepped up, turned its practices around, and made the commitment to be a model employer for the rest of the industry.
One worker shared, “Since winning back my wages, these months have been my happiest in all my 16 years working at Yank Sing. Now we get off work at 4:30 pm, and I still have energy to spend time with my grandchildren. I sometimes tell my friends what happened to me and about the campaign. It took all of us standing up. How could we have won back what was owed to us if it was just me?”
This win is an example of what workers can do when they come together and organize. CPA is so excited to announce this settlement that includes not only back pay but also many improvements in the workplace, such as:
- Trainings for workers on their workplace rights
- Increased pay for current, non-tipped employees
- Holiday pay for kitchen staff
- The right to take up to 4 weeks of approved time off to visit family without risk of job loss
- Fair and transparent scheduling
- Workplace compliance committee where a committee of workers will monitor and ensure compliance with the terms of the settlement
- During the course of the settlement discussions, Yank Sing implemented fully paid healthcare for full-time workers, where approximately only 10% of restaurants nationally offer any healthcare at all.
Here are links to some of the latest news coverage:
- SF Restaurant Yank Sing Workers Earn Historic $4 Million (Civil Eats)
- Restaurants Are Feeling the Heat In Crackdown On Wage Theft (LA Times)
- San Francisco’s Yank Sing Restaurant Settles For $4.25M With Workers Over Labor Practices, Stolen Wages(KPIX)
Today we released this joint statement with ALC and Yank Sing. Here is an excerpt I wanted to share:
“We believe this is a win for everyone – workers, consumers and the restaurant industry. This unprecedented agreement is a signal of a new approach for workers and employers to transform working conditions together. We are so honored to partner with Yank Sing workers, whose campaign is an inspiration to workers everywhere, and we commend Yank Sing owners for leading new model standards in San Francisco’s competitive restaurant industry. We call on more employers to follow their leadership, because world-class cuisine should go hand-in-hand with respect and dignity on the job.” — Shaw San Liu, CPA Lead Organizer
In a period of such tremendous social and economic inequality, I am incredibly proud of and inspired by the courage of the Yank Sing workers. Often times, society portrays Asian immigrant workers as “model” workers who are quiet, weak, and don’t “rock the boat”. This is what happens when workers counter this narrative and organize. Time and again, these workers overcame their fears to not only win a historic settlement, but to transform themselves and their workplace. In San Francisco and across the country, workers are organizing in new and transformative ways like with the recent passage of Proposition J – SF $15 minimum wage and the SF Retail Worker Bill of Rights. These are all important experiments in the 21st century. Led by workers in partnership with CPA, the Asian Law Caucus, community organizations, and labor unions, this is a victory for all of us — when workers organize, everyone wins.
Alex T. Tom
P.S. Help us spread about this historic settlement by sharing this photo and using the hashtags #EndWageTheft #OrganizingWorks. Follow us @cpasf.