Via the Brandworkers International website:
For Immediate Release:
March 26, 2008
Sushi Samba Becomes Fifth Major Restaurant Group to Drop Embattled Seafood Company
Wild Edibles Continues to Lose Millions of Dollars Over Mistreatment of Workers
New York, NY- Large seafood wholesaler and retailer, Wild Edibles, is seeing its customer base rapidly erode with Sushi Samba, one of the nation's hottest sushi restaurants, cutting off purchases from the company until an employment dispute with workers is fairly resolved. Sushi Samba Park and Sushi Samba 7 join leading New York restaurants like Pastis, Union Square Cafe, La Goulue, and Mermaid Inn that have previously pulled out of Wild Edibles over concern for the treatment of employees there.
"We are very pleased that Sushi Samba has chosen to support the legal rights of workers at Wild Edibles," said Daniel Gross, the founding director of Brandworkers International, a non profit workers' rights organization providing legal and advocacy assistance to the employees. "Wild Edibles' remaining customers would do well to consider playing a similarly positive role."
Wild Edibles workers have joined with concerned community members to make positive change on the job. Last September, a group of employees filed a large federal class action lawsuit potentially covering hundreds of workers alleging that Wild Edibles withheld overtime pay and retaliated against workers who asserted their rights. A federal judge subsequently issued an injunction against Wild Edibles and its owner Richard Martin against further retaliation. The National Labor Relations Board has also alleged that the company interfered with the rights of employees who have joined the Industrial Workers of the World labor union.
"I have four children to support and tens years without overtime pay was too much," said Cesar Barturen, one of the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Wild Edibles. "It's shameful that for standing up for my rights, [owner] Richard Martin fired me."
Wild Edibles warehouse employees come mainly from Peru and Mexico and most have financial obligations to families here and abroad. They start their work day at 2am and work through the night until 11am or later. Working in a facility that is often painfully cold, Wild Edibles employees must contend with cuts and strains from preparing and hauling the seafood on a tight-schedule. Though they work hard and service many of New York's most expensive fine-dining restaurants, the workers were systematically denied overtime pay and many haven't seen a raise in years. Many of the workers take home around just $400 a week for as many as 55 hours of work. They receive neither company health insurance nor retirement benefits.
Brandworkers International is a non-profit organization providing legal, advocacy, and organizing support to retail and food employees across the supply chain. By connecting retail and food workers with concerned citizens, Brandworkers increases employer compliance with the law and challenges corporate misconduct. The Brandworkers Focus on the Food Chain initiative enables the mostly immigrant food processing workers in Brooklyn and Queens to rise above poverty and abuse.