Workers at Yank Sing restaurant win $4 million and lasting changes to workplace

March 29, 2022 Cases & Campaigns

10+ hour days. Withheld breaks. Stolen tips and wages.

These were just some of the common practices faced by workers at Yank Sing, an award-winning high-end dim sum restaurant in San Francisco. Workers at the restaurant, mostly Chinese immigrants, came together in 2014 to fight for their basic rights and owed wages.

A group of people stand in front of a banner reading ""Yank Sing Workers Untied to Defend our Rights" in English and Chinese

Yank Sing workers gather after an organizing meeting with the Asian Law Caucus and Chinese Progressive Association.

Through a transformative workplace campaign led by a group of nearly 100 cooks, dishwashers, and wait staff at the restaurant, workers won a landmark settlement for over $4 million in back pay owed to over 280 current and former workers at Yank Sing. At the time, this was the largest wage and hour settlement in a single restaurant in the history of the California Labor Commissioner’s office. Despite economic vulnerability, fears of retaliation often faced by low-wage immigrant workers and limited English language ability, campaign leaders organized their coworkers to demand workplace changes, with the support of the Chinese Progressive Association and legal representation from Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus.

In 2018, we spoke with a worker at Yank Sing about the transformative effect of the settlement and workplace changes . She told us, "I get off work at 4:30pm and still see the sunlight. I have the energy to spend time with my grandkids and cook at home."

Workers were not only able to win the $4 million in back pay owed to more than 300 affected workers, but also model employer workplace changes above and beyond what the law requires, including wage increases above the minimum wage, holiday pay, vacation pay, paid health insurance, protected leave to visit family, a workers’ compliance committee, workers’ rights training during paid time, and more. These terms were all agreed to by Yank Sing, who turned its practices around and made the commitment to be a model employer for the industry.

The backpay component of the settlement was made possible through partnership with the California Labor Commissioner’s office and the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. The case and settlement has since been a model for a strategic enforcement partnership between the California Labor Commissioner’s office and community-based organizations across California, supported in part by the Irvine Foundation.