Holding signs and placards, a small group of restaurant workers and allies gathered on Tuesday in front of Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken in Dinkytown. They came to celebrate a final settlement resulting in over $10,000 in back wages, tips, and damages paid to former Bonchon workers.
Erin Lynch, a member, and leader with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Minnesota (ROC-MN), stated, “We’re here to tell the story of workers being exploited and a story of workers standing up for their legal and moral rights. And a story of workers winning.”
One year ago, Bonchon Minneapolis, operated by ZAC inc., a local franchise operation of a multinational restaurant corporation, opened its first location in Uptown, Minneapolis. Workers alleged that from the beginning, they faced wage theft in the form of stolen tips, minimum wage violations, and illegal credit card processing fee deductions.
Last spring, after multiple good-faith attempts to engage with their employer directly, former Bonchon workers joined with ROC-MN to put public pressure on the restaurant to pay back stolen wages and damages to workers. Workers also filed complaints with the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
“When I started working at Bonchon, I didn’t know about the labor movement and worker’s rights. I thought that if people went to work and didn’t get treated right, they just had to find a new job,” former Bonchon worker Mya Bradford stated at the press conference. “I knew something was wrong, but I just thought that’s how it is. Then my co-worker Amber and I started meeting with ROC. I learned we weren’t getting mandatory breaks, we weren’t getting sick and safe time. They paid us under minimum wage. We weren’t valued for our hard work. They didn’t respect our basic human rights. Sometimes you’ve got to show people, no, you can’t do that.”
On May 7th, 2019, a rally was held outside of Bonchon Uptown that shut down traffic outside of the restaurant on Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street, one of the cities busiest intersections.
This public pressure prompted the previously silent Bonchon franchise to repay some of the owed wages and respond publicly on their Facebook page.
At the end of the summer, former workers received final settlement checks after the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, and the Labor Enforcement Division reached a settlement with the restaurant’s ownership.
Since August, former Bonchon workers have been cashing final settlement checks for damages and stolen wages in the form of minimum wage violations and sick and safe time infractions.
Speakers at the rally were quick to point out that workplace abuses in the restaurant industry are not limited to Bonchon.
Speakers affirmed their commitment to continue organizing in the restaurant industry.