San Francisco News

SF Chinatown restaurant owners scrutinized

Friday, September 17, 2010

A scathing new report released likens Chinatown restaurants to sweatshops for employees. The report says 50 percent of the workers don't even make minimum wage -- in San Francisco, that's $9.79 an hour.

Chinatown is a favorite San Francisco tourist attraction with a hidden secret according to a new report from the Chinese progressive association and UC Berkeley Public Health.

It says 50 percent of restaurant workers receive less than minimum wage, 20 percent are required to work more than 60 hours a week and 95 percent of them don't receive a living wage.

"There were all kinds of other violations of basic human rights," Dr. Meredith Minkler UC Berkeley Department of Health said.

"The work didn't afford benefits or breaks and I worked six days a week. The only reason I kept on doing it is to support my family," restaurant worker Wen Lan Rong said through a translator.

Lin Gan says he earned $6 an hour at the New on Sang Poultry Market and he wasn't paid for two months. The city went after the owner and she closed.

"Nearly half of the complaints we receive come from restaurant workers," Donna Levitt from the San Francisco Labor Standards Enforcement said.

According to the CPA, one of the restaurants withheld wages. They were able to recover withheld wages for employees, but the restaurant has been sold and we don't have an update on its status.

"We know these abuses happen, but this is the first time it is coming into public light how bad it is," Shaw San Lui from the Chinese Progressive Association said.

"These numbers are outrageous. Frankly they are criminal," San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said.

Chiu was joined by three other supervisors putting the issue on the front burner for the board.

The report says solutions include a workers bill of rights and enforcing existing laws. There are restaurants that do the right thing, but we were told no one want to talk about it.

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food, chinatown, san francisco news, don sanchez
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