Friday, October 25, 2013

At the Intersection of Bicyles and Workers' Rights

On an eventful final Friday of the month of October, the Halloween ride of Critical Mass, a beer-swilling national cyclist movement, convened on the New Haven Green.  Led by Matt Feiner, the man behind The Devils Gear Bike Shop on Orange Street, a crowd emerged wearing costumes of many varieties; such as killer bees, Fred and Wilma Flintstone, and Matt himself as a gorilla.

The ride proceeded up Chapel and then laterally across York Street.  It reached Broadway, where a large 15' papier mâché head, which looked like a chef of some sort, peered above the crowd, wobbling perilously into oncoming traffic.  A crowd of people stood with it, marching in an oblong circle around the front entrance of a gourmet convenience store.

Further investigation revealed some reason behind the scene led to the obtainment of a document, which indicated that the CT DOL was investigating Gourmet Heaven for failure to pay minimum wage and overtime to more than a dozen workers.  The workers testified that they have worked 12 hours per day, 6 days per week, earning less than $5 per hour.  The Department of Labor investigation was triggered when a former worker filed a complaint alleging he is owed more than $10,000 in unpaid minimum wage and overtime.  The management was allegedly threatening workers with retaliation for cooperating with the Department of Labor.

The boycott of Gourmet Heaven continues throughout the rest of the year, every Friday at 5:30pm (see calendar for details).  The protestors will continue to picket until the demands are met.

Event in the Media
An opinion-editorial in the Yale Daily News advised against boycotting the establishment, claiming that tipping the workers was advantageous to 'driving the employer out of business.'

That particular op-ed in the YDN advised the following:
  • Write members of congress
  • Advise legislation in New Haven
  • Tip generously
Yet the issue with this is that if the business is violating the law, then it's not necessarily the fault of conscientious objection of the establishment loses its solvency; if found guilty, the business will be required to come to terms with paying its workers fairly, something it should have done to begin with.
Tipping generously sounded like a weak alternative, by comparison.

The issue with boycotting Gourmet Heaven is that there is no alternative.  It's the only 24-hour convenience store within the Yale Bubble available to students.  Yet justifying patronage by advising the passing of legislation, which would take years, is even more short-sighted than convening in the participation of social objection, which by design would only last until the CT Department of Labor reached a verdict on the pending case against the establishment of Gourmet Heaven.

Things you can do in the meantime?

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