At a busy working-class corner — 183rd Street and Jerome Avenue — in the Bronx, N.Y., a loud chant is heard weekly at the entrance to Liberato Restaurant: “¡Liberato, escucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha!” (Liberato, listen! We are in struggle!) from chant leader Mahoma Lopez, organizer for the Laundry Workers Center. This chant took on more meaning June 22 after the June 20-21 firings by Liberato boss Edwin Roman of three of his workers.
Since April 2014, these now fired workers have been among 14 workers — primarily immigrants — demanding at least a minimum wage. These workers have also demanded an end to the sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions by management at a food establishment where a 12-hour work day is common. The fired workers are active with the Laundry Workers Center, which was asked to support these low-wage workers. Since the firings, picket lines have doubled in size at the two Bronx Liberato sites.
The Liberato workers and the LWC have also used the courts to attack this wage theft. A July 27th court date has been set to challenge Liberato. Recently, Roman attempted to resolve the matter out of court. His offer was found to be a bogus financial settlement that the workers found unreasonably low and unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Liberato’s superexploitation has attracted larger picket lines as support grows for the fired workers. Expressing this fact as he spoke from the June 22 picket line was Larry Holmes, a leader of the People’s Power Assembly, stating: “Liberato’s boss feels he can do anything. His workers refuse to be silent and to be isolated. They send a powerful message. We are proud to be supportive of the Laundry Workers Center, the hottest, most dynamic fighter in NYC!”
Holmes ended with the words: “The fight of Liberato workers — this struggle — is for every worker! Their victory is for all of us!”