San Francisco restaurants may not like the minimum wage, but that doesn't mean they can avoid it. In a deal that was announced today by the California Labor Commission, 280 workers at Yank Sing, which operates two popular dim sum restaurants, won a whopping $4 million settlement over minimum wage and labor code violations.
The bone of contention was that workers had been paid the state minimum wage of $8 an hour, rather than San Francisco’s minimum wage, which is currently $10.74 an hour (and rising to $15 an hour in 2018). According to the commission, the restaurant’s management also misappropriated $1 million in tips over the last four years and failed to pay employees for all of the hours that they had worked. "Low-wage workers are often afraid to speak out," a Yank Sing employee identified as Mrs. Wu told KTVU. "But thanks to my co-workers' unity and collective action, we have made big changes in our workplace."
“It was all pretty blatant,” California Labor Commissioner Julie Su told the Los Angeles Times, charging that restaurants often "do not expect their employees to complain. They believe that it's cheaper to break the law because the chances of getting caught are slim, and the costs of getting caught are minimal." The complaint went into mediation, and the settlement is a good deal for the restaurant, since a $4 million judgment would cover only the tips ($1 million a year for four years) and not the wage or hourly violations. It’s also a good deal for the workers, since Yank Sing is committing to improving working conditions moving forward, according to the Chronicle, including benefits, health care, and vacation days. Yank Sing workers brought the complaint forward in 2013 in coordination with the Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus.
Yank Sing’s white people menu is not covered by the settlement.