Interview with a "Triple 8" Worker

One of the main leaders among the "Triple 8" restaurant workers is Ms. Jiang. Below Ms. Jiang shares some of the history behind the "Triple 8" struggle.

CSWA NEWS: When did you begin to work at Triple 8?

JIANG: In 1996, I got a job as a busperson at the "Yue Tung Restaurant" located on East Broadway underneath the Manhattan Bridge. We worked 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and the wages were very low. I earned about $250 a month plus tips, but the boss took part of our tips. Around 2002, many of us talked about suing the boss, but it was all just alot of talk.

CSWA NEWS: So later on what led you to want to fight?

JIANG: About two years ago, because of a Labor Dept. investigation 1, the restaurant owners changed their name to Sun Yue Tung Restaurant (a.k.a.New Triple 8 or 88 Palace). Although the name changed, the owner was pretty much the same. Actually the old boss was still a joint owner of the "new" restaurant. Initially, the "new" management planned to get rid of all of us, but we came together and went to CSWA. The employer heard we went to CSWA and immediately reinstated all of us, but the management also made us agree to a 3- month probationary period. They had us sign a form that said if it didn't work out after 3 months, they could fire us and we couldn't sue them. I signed it because I didn't want to be out of a job. But this didn't stop us from coming together. We continued to prepare our lawsuit, which we filed on August 2003.

Since then, the managers constantly watched over us. Some of the managers used very insulting words to speak to us, especially us women. I don't even want to repeat to you what dirty words they said. Others would order us around, asking us to do work that wasn't our responsibility. If we tried to explain that it wasn't our job to do certain tasks, the manager would yell at us, "Whatever I tell you to do, you just better do it!"

CSWA NEWS: Why did they fire you?

JIANG: The management has been targeting those of us who were part of the lawsuit, especially the Fuzhounese workers like myself. The manager told some of us Fuzhounese who were part of the lawsuit that we didn't have status and so fired us. We knew they were being unfair because there were other undocumented workers at the restaurant who were not part of the lawsuit, and they were not fired. They also tried to fire me even though I did have status. I was fired on June 21, 2004.

CSWA NEWS: Since you began to fight, have you seen any progress?

JIANG: The National Labor Relations Board demanded "Triple 8" to reinstate two of us who were unfairly fired, but the restaurant refused and insisted on only paying us two weeks worth of pay. I was fired more than five months ago. Others were fired seven months ago. Now the case has to go to a hearing 2.

Ever since we began to fight back, conditions in the restaurant have changed a lot. The boss changed the hours so that now all the workers work 40 hours a week and we make even more money than we did before when worked like dogs for more than 70 hours a week!

CSWA NEWS: Even after you began to fight, you were still working at Triple 8. Were you ever scared?

JIANG: I'm not scared because other workers have been supporting me. Some of my family wasn't always that supportive though. They thought that if I didn't sue him [the boss] and "make trouble" that I would still have a job. But I knew that even if I didn't sue, the boss probably still would fire us.

CSWA NEWS: How did you hear about CSWA?

JIANG: Through my co-workers. I also heard about the New Silver Palace restaurant workers standing up for their rights.

CSWA NEWS: What did you think of the New Silver Palace fight?

JIANG: [Laughing] I used to think the NSP workers were bad. I didn't like that they picketed people's wedding banquets. But now that this has happened to me at Triple 8, I understand more about NSP. I see that they did the right thing, so now I support and picket with them once a week. Like in my case, I see that they did nothing wrong. This is our right.

1 The Dept. of Labor investigated “Triple 8” restaurant in 2001 and ordered the restaurant to pay the workers some backwages, but to date, the restaurant has not paid any of this money, and the DOL has no teeth to enforce it.

2 Shortly after this interview, Ms. Jiang won an NLRB ruling and won reinstatement as well as compensation of close to $10,000 for the time she was out of work as a result of her retaliatory firing in June 2004.

Chinese Staff & Workers Association (CSWA)
Phone: (212) 334-2333