Youth Workers Protest Cheesecake
October 2, 2004 12:18 PM
Chanting and angry voices filled the air yesterday outside the downtown San Francisco Macy’s building where the Cheesecake Factory restaurant encompasses the top floor.
Young students, activists and restaurant workers were gathered outside to demand that Cheesecake management speak with them. For over two years current and former Cheesecake workers have been trying to settle claims adding up to more than $1 million in back pay for illegally denying them breaks.
Young Workers United, a grassroots organization fighting for low-wage and unemployed workers in the service industry, joined the fight to increase the pressure on Cheesecake. Over 150 workers have filed claims with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (CDLSE) for all breaks missed.
“We filed this claim over a year ago and the Cheesecake has been dragging this issue on,” said former employee and SF State senior in computer science, Jason Lockwood.
Part of the demonstration included presenting Cheesecake management with a petition signed by over 80 employees demanding that the claims be paid. The organizers want the Cheesecake to adopt a code of conduct that management must follow pertaining to the treatment of their workers.
Supervisor Matt Gonzalez joined the protest and acted as arbitrator, trying to encourage open communication between the workers and management but Cheesecake management refused to comment and directed the workers to their corporate office.
“This is not a poor company, it’s successful,” said Gonzalez. “It’s important that we let them know that the public is taking notice and we want these claims settled.”
Members from other city organizations were also lending support during the demonstration.
Chris Jackson, an SF State urban studies senior and member of Youth Commission, a citywide organization working for youths rights, spoke at the demonstration rallying and organizing protesters.
“I’ve worked a lot of crap service jobs and I know what it’s like to be mistreated,” said Jackson. “We’re here to bring awareness about the poor working conditions at Cheesecake and other service sector jobs.”
SF State students Siaira Harris and Marsha Johnson were also at the protest lending support and demanding basic worker rights for Cheesecake employees.
“My claim is $6,700 for every break I wasn’t given in the three years I’ve been working at Cheesecake,” said current employee and SF State BECA senior, Nick Doheny. “At first we (employees) were trying to settle as a group, but they (Cheesecake) wanted to deal with every claim separately, which will take forever. But we’re going to keep the pressure on them until they settle.”
Patty Senecal, a former employee and City College student, filed a claim for $4,000 for rest and meal breaks that she never received and has yet to receive her back wages.
“It started small with just two claims and has grown to over 140 claims that haven’t been paid,” said Senecal. “But we’re going to get the community and media involved until they change their working environment and settle our claims.”
If you want to learn more about the Cheesecake Factory employee claims or Young Workers United, they are holding a meeting October 11 at 6 p.m. at 215 Golden Gate Avenue or you can check out their website Young Workers United
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