A strong, multinational protest took place on July 19 in front of the Capital Grille on East 42nd Street, a restaurant for the 1%. It was called during “Restaurant Week” by Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), to which some Capital Grille workers belong. The nonprofit organization seeks improved working conditions for restaurant workers throughout the city. Occupy Wall Street organizers with “99-Pickets” and activists with Community/Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services, May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights, and other groups joined the lively protest.
The demonstration condemned the restaurant’s theft of wages, racial discrimination and management’s profiting from the racist exploitation of its workers. With some dressed in restaurant workers’ uniforms, protesters passed out fliers exposing “Capital Grille’s dirty dishes!” Capital Grille workers in five cities are part of a lawsuit claiming they worked off the clock without compensation and were forced to share tips with some nontipped co-workers. They have filed racial discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because immigrant workers and workers of color have labored for almost eight years without being promoted to servers.
Meanwhile, Darden Restaurants, the parent company of the Capital Grille, earned half a billion dollars in profits in 2011, which went to executives and Wall Street investors, such as JPMorgan Chase. Yet workers have no paid sick leave. They must work more than one job during a shift for the same pay and end up working for years without a raise.
Capital Grille workers are fighting mad and fighting back! They will win this one with unity, solidarity and working-class strength. The growing awareness via the OWS movement and increased union-busting attempts at Con Edison, Verizon and the U.S. Postal Service have fired up many in the working class. For more information about Capital Grille’s dirty dishes, go to DignityatDarden.org and support the next ROC-NY protest!