Restaurant picketed in wage dispute

August 3, 2012
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(Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira) Protesters picket outside Bukhara Indian Bistro on Centre Street July 26.

CENTRAL JP—Protesters picketed outside Bukhara Indian Bistro at 701 Centre St. last week to demand payment of what they claim are owed wages from the restaurant’s owner, One World Cuisine restaurant group, as part of coordinated protests across the city.

About 30 people chanting and carrying signs and banners paced in front of Bukhara’s windows on Centre Street, demanding “justice,” on July 26. Similar protests took place simultaneously in front of One World Cuisine’s other Boston and Cambridge restaurants, Centro Presente Executive Director Patricia Montes told the Gazette.

Centro Presente is the organization responsible for planning the protests. It is a nonprofit immigrant rights and economic and social justice based group in Somerville.

According to Montes, five workers allege that One World Cuisine owes over $50,000 in unpaid wages to employees at Mumbai Chopstix on Newbury Street in Boston and Café of India in Cambridge.

No Bukhara employees have come forward with similar claims, she said.

“What they’re doing is unfair. They’re violating Massachusetts law and the rights of their workers,” Montes told the Gazette.

A Gazette phone call to One World Cuisine was not returned by press time.

Bukhara Manager Aeter Singh said he did not notice the picketers outside the restaurant.

Marcos Che, Carlos Tze, Jose Kantek, Yovani Cobrado and Luis Guardado, the workers listed on the complaint, claim that One World Cuisine offered them a flat weekly rate before making them work long hours with no overtime pay. Eventually, pay stopped altogether, Centro Presente Labor Organizer Patrick McDermott told the Gazette.

“It’s the same modus operandi on the part of the employer,” McDermott said.

Centro Presente was involved in similar claims against One World Cuisine a year ago, Montes said. Two workers filed similar claims last year and settled for just under $17,000.

The workers, with Centro Presente’s help, have filed complaints against One World Cuisine with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and state Attorney General’s office on this “working rights issue,” Montes said, though she could not give the dates of the filings.

“We have communicated with Centro Presente, just as we would any organization or advocacy group. But there is no open investigation or action being taken with regards to One World Cuisine,” DOL spokesperson Andre Bowser told the Gazette.

The state Attorney General’s office said it has a policy of neither confirming nor denying any investigations.

“We’d like to have a meeting with the owner of the group to start negotiations,” Montes said. “Hopefully, they’ll pay their workers.”