About a dozen people gathered in front of Destiny USA today to demand pay for temporary janitorial workers at the Cheesecake Factory. They say a contractor doing business with the popular restaurant owes two workers nearly $400. Worker Debora Lewis describes her experience.
"I worked seventeen and a half hours and I am also waiting for my pay," Lewis said. "We cleaned bathrooms, swept, mopped, picked up chairs, cleaned the windows, dusted tables. We worked at nights. We did what no one else wanted to do. We worked a lot of hours. They [The Cheesecake Factory] don't care about their workers. I worked at a famous restaurant that benefited from my labor and I was never paid."
Organizer Nikketa Slade says one of the workers was scheduled to work at 12:30 one night in June but was told to leave. She says it’s important for workers to know who they are working for. Slade says this is not an isolated incident.
"Not just Cheesecake Factory, but Cheesecake Factory and other companies," Slade said. "I think they need to have a responsibility to make a statement that they are only going to do business or subcontract out with responsible and just employers. Since they benefit from the labor of these workers, they have a responsibility to subcontract and contract with employers that they know are going to do the right thing."
Slade says almost 2.1 million workers in New York experience wage theft every year. She says it disproportionately affects low-wage and immigrant workers.
"A lot of people are not familiar with the term 'wage theft' which is what happened to these two workers," Slade said. "They need to know that it is illegal to not be paid. it is illegal to be forced to work off the clock, to not be paid at least minimum wage, and that kind of thing. So it is really important for workers to know what their rights are so they don't have to face these abuses in the workplace."
Cheesecake Factory officials tell WAER News they expect their vendors to comply with state and federal wage laws. They suggest complaints should be made against the contractor for unfair labor or payment practices.