Workers Stand Up Against Wage Theft in Portland
by William Pilgrim
Friday December 11th, 2009- NEWLY OPENED RESTAURANT TOAST AND PHO DENIES FORMER WORKERS PAST WAGES.
Restaurant owners Tan Vo and Titi Nguyen of the newly opened Toast and Pho, 101 NW 21st Ave, have been accused of denying an estimated $8,000 in back wages to former employees Teresa Nguyen (no relation), Pedro Rendon, and former General Manager Frank Clow. Toast and Pho opened November 1st, 2009.
Tan Vo and Titi Nguyen were informed that the workers would be coming today, Friday December 11th, to collect their back wages. The workers were joined by more than 15 activists who confronted the owners at 11:30 am. Members of the Portland Restaurant Workers Association (PRWA) Workers Support Committee and activists from the worker’s rights community were present for support and solidarity.
The Owners of Toast and Pho were informed in advance that the workers would be attempting to collect their wages Friday, and the workers arrived with formal letters outlining their requests, and Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) Wage Claim forms. Because the ownership failed to keep formal or accurate records of the hours employees worked before the restaurant’s opening, and during its operation, the wages owed are based on employee estimates. Teresa Nguyen is owed over $93.40 in wages and withheld tips, Rendon is owed over $1,000 in wages and overtime for hours worked before the restaurant opened, and Clow is owed $7,000 in salary.
The former employees and the PRWA were asked to leave almost immediately after arriving at Toast and Pho. The ownership became flustered and hostile, and the police were called. The PRWA remained in the restaurant until former employee David Sokolowski,acting as a liaison to the police, was informed that only Teresa Nguyen, Rendon, and Clow would be allowed to stay.
The workers were denied their unpaid wages. As a result, BOLI Wage Claim forms were filed Friday afternoon, and the workers may seek legal recourse.
Toast and Pho have a history of questionable hiring/firing practices, as well as failing to pay their workers. On November 8th, David Sokolowski and the PRWA participated in another solidarity action in which Sokolowski successfully obtained a week-and-a-half’s worth of back wages.
The PRWA is preparing to return to Toast and Pho for demonstrations on Saturday, December 12th, and will conduct a phone blast from the community to keep the pressure on.