On January 24th, ten former workers from Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant won their campaign against wage theft and picked up checks from management. The workers confronted their supervisors over more than $1200 in unpaid waged for mandatory unpaid meetings, illegal paycheck deductions, and missing time cards.
Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant, a popular Portland diner in the 1950’s, reopened to much fanfare in October 2012 after being shuttered for more than 30 years. While Yaw’s painted their workplace as a family-friendly environment on their website, behind the scenes the people who worked there weren’t being treated much like family. When it became clear to the workers that the restaurant wouldn’t change its practices or address their concerns individually, they gathered together to fight back. The workers organized with 40 community members to march into the restaurant during business hours and present a letter along with documents outlining the amount of wages owed. One week later, the workers’ demands were met.
Alicia Carroll, a former worker at Yaw’s had this to say about her experience. “I honestly believed I would never see a cent of the money I was owed. I tried time and again to address the problem with management and was ignored. Fighting for and receiving my wages, has been a very eye opening experience. Our victory is a testament to what we can achieve when we unite. With help from the community and sticking together as a group, we were able to succeed in obtaining our proper wages and send a message to Yaw’s Top Notch that it’s not okay to disrespect workers. Hard work deserves respect.”
The Yaw’s organizing is part of a local movement against wage theft and for worker power. Multiple actions in recent months have seen workers and community members directly confronting work their bosses over missing wages and bad working conditions. So far, over a dozen wage theft campaigns have won back wages for the organizing workers. Workers in many industries are vulnerable to wage theft, but the practice is especially rampant in restaurants and the service sector generally. To win wages and respect, workers are taking matters into their own hands and building community support to hold their employers accountable.
The workers were supported by community members, We Are Oregon, and The Portland Industrial Workers of the World. Organizing against wage theft continues. If you are experiencing wage theft, call the wage theft hotline at (503) 345-7831.
We will fight alongside you!