A group of approximately 20 protestors assembled outside of Diva Indian Bistro in Davis Square on Friday evening to rally against an alleged withholding of $130,000 in wages from immigrant employees.
The protests at Diva have been going on for several months as part of a campaign advocating for a few immigrant workers who have been victims of wage theft, according to Patrick McDermott, Workers Rights Organizer at the Latin American immigrant rights organization Centro Presente.
“The workers should have been paid a long time ago, and we’re not going anywhere until they get paid,” McDermott told Friday’s crowd. “We’re out here now to ask them to pay the workers every cent of what they owe.”
The restaurant company that owns Diva, One World Cuisine, has been treating its immigrant employees unfairly by paying them illegally low wages, according to Lecturer in Tufts’ Department of Romance Languages Andrew Klatt, who attended the protest.
“Centro Presente is helping the workers, and they’re trying to inform the community that this criminal activity is going on here,” Klatt said.
One World Cuisine owns numerous restaurants in the area, including Mumbai Chopstix on Newbury Street in Boston and Bukhara in Jamaica Plain. Immigrant workers at these restaurants – as well as at Diva – have not been adequately compensated for their labor, according to the Centro Presente website.
The protest at Diva began at 6 p.m. on Friday and lasted for about an hour, with picketers circling in front of the restaurant, handing out informational leaflets and dissuading passersby from entering the restaurant. Centro Presente’s chants included “One World Cuisine, pay your workers!” and “Justice Now!”
“These guys were hourly employees,” McDermott said. “These guys were working in the kitchen long weeks, for 72 to 78 hours. They’d go in at 10 or 11 in the morning. They’d get out at 11 at night, sometimes later on Thursday or Friday nights. At the end of their employment there, they weren’t paid for a couple of weeks.”
Klatt explained that One World Cuisine paid the employees a flat rate per week, giving them raises that were always below the legal minimum.
“Coming from a foreign country,
it seemed to [the immigrants] that they were getting paid very well because they were being paid much more than they did in their home country,” he said. “They didn’t realize that they were being paid so little that it’s illegal in this country.”
The employees reported the discrepancy between their working hours and their wages, but the restaurant group refused to pay back the wages when such complaints were voiced, Klatt said.
Klatt said that an attorney is representing the former One World Cuisine employees in an effort to recover the lost wages.
“There’s a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and there’s also this presence [at the protest] to publicize the situation,” he said.
While Friday evening’s protest raged on outside, many tables inside the Indian bistro were empty. Management at Diva were unavailable on Friday for comment.
The protest organizers are confident that the situation will be resolved at some point, and have no intentions of slowing down.
“There hasn’t been anything accomplished at this point, but there will be something accomplished,” McDermott said.
Amid chants of “We’ll be back!” protest organizers assured the crowd that another demonstration would take place in front of Diva on Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.