Friday, August 31, 2007

NO GAIN FROM LO MEIN


On Monday, Labor Day will be celebrated across the country. It is a day to salute "the worker".

While the economy inches toward a recession, the working class struggles on. Amidst the parades and promises of union leaders, a small revolt is taking place in New York City. Chinese and Latino delivery men are striking against their employers. Saigon Grill, Ollies and Flor De Mayo are the targets. They are profiled in an article in New York magazine. Here are some excerpts.


In New York’s expanding service economy, deliverymen occupy a position near the bottom—earning less than doormen, security guards, nannies, maids, tailors, taxi drivers, and trash collectors and working in far more treacherous conditions. They work long hours and cover huge territories, often in inclement weather, dodging perils like potholes, taxi doors, and tow trucks (one of which killed a deliveryman last year)—all the while hoping they don’t get robbed along the way. And they do this for pay that is often less than the minimum wage.
But that may be about to change. Since last fall, some 70 Chinese deliverymen—including Justin and his co-workers at Ollie’s—have filed lawsuits against five Manhattan restaurants. Never before have so many restaurant deliverymen joined together to battle their bosses. It’s the Year of the Chinese Deliverymen—the year they decided to revolt.


For their trouble, the deliverymen say they were paid a sum of money—typically $500 or $600 a month—that often had little relationship to the hours they worked or to the minimum wage. (In their lawsuit, the Saigon Grill deliverymen contend that some of them were paid as little as $1.70 an hour.) The rest of their income came from tips. The deliverymen say that customers usually tip $2 or maybe $3 per order. On a good night, a deliveryman could make $60 in tips. Depending on his base pay, he could earn between $20,000 and $25,000 a year.


The next time it is raining and you order take out, consider the man who brings it to you.
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