Volume 17 • Issue 34 • Jan. 14 - 20, 2005

New Chinatown labor dispute at old location

By Hemmy So

Amid flying accusations, neighborhood rumors and a recently filed lawsuit, members of the 318 Restaurant Workers Union have determined to gain redress from Golden Bridge Restaurant owner Philip Wu.

Regularly picketing in front of what used to be New Silver Palace Restaurant at 50 Bowery, union members and supporters accuse Wu of discrimination, slanderous statements, intimidation and threats against union members and demand a public apology. The brouhaha stems from the union’s belief that Golden Bridge has discriminated against union workers by openly calling the organization an illegal entity and refusing to hire any union members.

Despite repeated attempts, Wu did not return phone calls requesting comment.

A recent lawsuit filed by Wu and Golden Bridge co-owner Michael Gee against the union, however, does allege that the union has no standing with the National Labor Relations Board or under state law.

Marie Koo, vice president of 318 Restaurant Workers Union, denied that claim and asserted that the union had properly registered with New York State.

But Golden Bridge attorney Andrew Davidovits insisted that without proper N.L.R.B. registration, union members had no right to picket the restaurant. He said that because of violent picketing, the restaurant owners were forced to take the matter to state court. The judge denied the plaintiffs’ request for injunction last month.

Both the restaurant owners and union members have volleyed a series of similar complaints of violence, intimidation and slander against each other and any resolution may demand court action. In addition to the Golden Bridge suit, John Antush, a National Mobilization Against Sweatshops member helping the union, said that 318 Restaurant Workers is looking at its legal options.

While Golden Bridge vociferously denies any relationship with the previous restaurant, New Silver Palace, its ghost still lingers. Union members recently won a $500,000 settlement from the now-defunct restaurant earlier this year for labor violations including lost wages and misappropriated tips. A long-running saga that included misbehavior by the old Silver Palace, New Silver Palace’s predecessor, waiters and busboys claimed that the restaurant’s managers took more than $1 million in tips over the course of 15 years.

For this current battle, union members, including dim sum server Fung Yee Chen, remain steadfast. “We’re ready for the long haul,” Koo said, translating Chen’s words. “As long as he doesn’t apologize, we’re ready for the long haul. We don’t think the restaurant can outlast us. If the community boycotts the restaurant then they’re not going to last.”

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