Caravan calls for fair wages among minorities

by Everett Merrill

NEW BRUNSWICK - A contingent of workers and advocates from community organizations, unions, and faith-based groups protested against unfair labor practices as part of Wednesday's National Day of Action Against Wage Theft.

One of the stops was at LA Cabañita Dominican Restaurant in New Brunswick, which owes workers $11,598.60, according to Lou Kimmel, the executive director of New Labor, a membership-based New Brunswick organization of largely low-wage Latino workers that educates, organizes, and fights for better working conditions.

Kimmel said an agreement with the restaurant to pay the back wages in monthly installments was reached with the New Jersey Department of Labor; payments are to start on Dec. 1. He said the protest was held because the owner of the restaurant had previously ignored both an informal agreement and a previous payment plan negotiated with the New Jersey Department of Labor.

"We just want to make sure she pays," said Kimmel of the restaurant owner.

"The only comment I have is that we have to pay," said  LA Cabañita Dominican Restaurant manager Altagracia Ramos on Thursday, through an interpreter.

A contingent also visited On-Target Staffing in New Brunswick to inform them that they can't post advertisements of "jobs for women," Kimmel said.

Wage theft includes not getting paid for the work one does, getting paid overtime at a regular rate or less than 1.5 amount of workweek salary, getting paid less than the agreed amount, and/or payment under minimum wage

"We need employers to be responsible and do the right thing," said José Cruz, a member of New Labor.  "A day of work is a day of pay."

Kimmel said the group also went to businesses in Newark and Lakewood which represented a total of $12,918.10 owed for work done in restaurants and construction. He said these particular cases have final docketed judgments or payment agreements with the New Jersey Department of Labor, but have not yet been honored.