Bay Area Immigrant Workers Win $2.6 Million Settlement from Shuttered Kome Seafood Buffet

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August 12, 2020

Daly City, CA (August 12, 2020) — 133 restaurant workers, including cooks, dishwashers, servers, and hosts, have won a $2.6 million settlement from former employer Kome Japanese Seafood Buffet (Kome Buffet). With the organizing and legal support of the Chinese Progressive Association and the Asian Law Caucus, in partnership with the Labor Commissioner’s Office, the workers will receive amounts representing unpaid minimum wage, overtime, required split shift premiums, related penalties, as well as money owed for closing the restaurant without proper notice. In addition to asserting their basic workers’ rights and owed wages, workers also fought back against retaliation and the owners’ alleged fraudulent transfer of assets. This case illustrates that with workers’ persistence and the support of public agencies and the community, employers will have to pay the bill.

“I was treated unfairly many times, and that anger helped me conquer my fears. As a result, I joined the organizing efforts and learned that with unity comes protection for all of us,” reflects Chiu Ping Tam, a former Kome server.

The group of immigrant workers first came forward in 2017, and participated in a multi-year public campaign and investigation process spurred by complaints of unpaid wages, no overtime for 10-11 hour work days, stolen tips, and other labor violations.

“From La Taqueria to Rangoon Ruby, Burma Superstar, and Kome, the community is seeing and learning that immigrant workers have the power to come together, fight for their dignity and win justice,” says Winifred Kao, senior counsel at the Asian Law Caucus.

Like other low-wage industries, restaurants are the site of frequent labor violations.  In an increasingly unequal Bay Area, low-wage and immigrant workers are vulnerable to abusive conditions, making community support for workers vital. The workers’ victory at Kome comes as part of a wave of low-wage, immigrant workers organizing in the Bay Area.

“Our communities deserve and desperately need workplaces that follow the law, respect, and pay a fair wage to immigrant workers — now more than ever,” states Joyce Lam, Political Director at the Chinese Progressive Association. “This is a difficult moment for the restaurant industry — we know that workers are the backbone of the industry’s success and will be key to the industry’s recovery.” The settlement will be paid in two installments.

 

About Chinese Progressive Association

Chinese Progressive Association is a nonprofit that educates, organizes and empowers the low-income and working class immigrant Chinese community in San Francisco to build collective power with other oppressed communities to demand better living and working conditions and justice for all people.

The Chinese Progressive Association has been organizing with workers in San Francisco’s Chinese immigrant community since the 1970s. Our Workers Rights programs include wage theft case support, hospitality job training program, community education and outreach, grassroots leadership development and policy advocacy. Chinese Progressive Association also organized with workers at the Yank Sing restaurant which resulted in a $4.2 million settlement and Yank Sing making substantial changes in workplace practices to become an industry leader. 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.

 

About Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus

Asian Law Caucus (ALC) was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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