Yesterday afternoon, a group of around 30 people congregated outside the doors of Tackle Box on M Street in solidarity with three workers who were owed a total of $4000 in unpaid wages by the owners of the restaurant.
“We are fighting today to avoid wage theft,” said Carlos Castillo, an immigrant worker from Peru who is working in support with Workers United D.C., an organization fighting for the labor rights of the immigrant community. “We, the immigrants, are the most vulnerable sector here in D.C.,” he said.
Two workers who were employed by Tackle Box until July 2012 saw several of their most recent paychecks bounced. A third worker employed by Hook restaurant, now Bandolero, and managed by the same owners as Tackle Box, had his final four paychecks bounced.
After unsuccessfully trying to manage the situation by filing claims for unpaid wages with the D.C. Office of Wage-Hour, the workers turned to the D.C. Wage Theft Coalition, which consists of D.C. Jobs with Justice and La Union de Trabajadores for support. Several Georgetown students also joined the cause through the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s connection with D.C. Jobs with Justice.
Organizers had arranged a protest outside the restaurant to demand the owed wages. However, after finding out about the manifestation plans, owners Jonathan and Bethany Umbel agreed to give the three workers their owed wages in cash.
The owners of Tackle Box did not respond to Vox‘s requests for comment.
Students taking part of the action emphasized the importance of increasing awareness in the University community about social justice violations in the neighborhood.
“Georgetown students sometimes think about social justice issues in a distant way, when the reality is that the neighborhood of Georgetown is not isolated from issues of injustice or abuse,” said Joanna Foote (SFS ’13), coordinator for the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s Day Laborer Exchange Program.
“It’s not just about going out and serving,” she said. “It’s the fact that maybe that fish taco that you bought is supporting an unjust system, because maybe that doesn’t go to the wages of the employee.”
The congregation waited outside the restaurant for twenty minutes while the workers were being paid, as previously arranged by members of both parties.
“I’m very happy to know that there are people who really care about the wellbeing of the community and who support us to organize and integrate ourselves into the community,” said José Ramirez, one of the workers who was being owed $1300, after he received the payment in hand yesterday.
“This success is very comforting to us because fellow workers are recuperating what was owed to them,” said Castillo.
Photo: Lucia He/Georgetown Voice