More than 100 people rallied outside of, and later marched into the Cheese Cake Factory on Geary at the corner of Powell.
The workers and the organization that they work with, Young Workers United, claim that the Cheese Cake Factory has violated their rights by denying them breaks for years on end. Violating wage and hour law, as well as refusing to pay back wages of more than 1million dollars owed to former and current workers. In addition to violations in wage and hour law, it had been made public by workers on site that the Cheese Cake Factory has chronic plumbing problems which have caused sewage to back up into the kitchen. And have serving food un-unclean dishes when hot water was cut off to the establishment, and management refused to close.
In this conflict, Supervisor Matt Gonzalez stated during the rally; there is no confusion as to who is right. In fact, he observed, the company has lent credibility to workers claims by changing their practices in order to come closer to being in accord with the law. Supervisor Gonzalez, asked what appears to be the question underlining much of this conflict when he asked, what is wrong with the Cheese Cake Factory settling just claims against them? Observing that they are certainly a wealthy enough company to afford to pay what they owe.
After rallying several workers went inside the building to approach management and demand that they accept a code of conduct drafted by the work force. With more than a hundred workers, Y.W.U. members, and supporters picketing outside, the delegation approached the general manager of the SF store. Jeff Resnick, the general manager stayed inside the building for the entirety of the rally, content to observe the action through thick panes of glass, whilespeaking nervously into a hand held radio.
When approached by this delegation he offered what was clearly an insufficient answer, saying simply that he was unable to assist in any way and referring the workers and their allies to speak to the Corporate Office. Though the issue was not pressed with Jeff any further, the rally continued, and placed both him and his establishment under a very unwelcome scrutiny. The crowd outside chanted What do we want? Workers Rights! and Who Are We? Young Workers!; and circulated flyers parodying a Cheese Cake Factory menu which cited facts about their businesses practices, and encouraged interested readers to contact Jeff directly to voice their concerns.
Possibly the Cheese Cake Factory feels as though they are able to operate outside of the law because they operate within the context of a decidedly anti-worker administration and State government. As was observed by one employee speaking before the march, Gov. Schwarzenegger recently vetoed legislation that would have raised the minimum wage for the state. As justification the Governor claimed that it would have been bad for business. This young worker observed though, that this does not hold up when you consider that both Washington and Oregon States have a higher minimum wage. There are also claims that many businesses within San Francisco have not been observing the new minimum wage set by the passing of Prop L in the last city wide election.
If the Cheese Cake factory has taken these developments as a sign that they will be able to continue to flout the law they seem, in this case, to be mistaken. As Patty, one of the workers on the delegation that approached Jeff, said to the picketers after her brief meeting, “every time we come out here we are stronger” and “every time we have more and more support”. In observing the crowd, this contention seems to hold up, with 100 plus participants, as well as a City Supervisor, and Supervisor hopeful (Renee Saucedo) in attendance. It does not seem that Jeff’s pat response of “contact the Corporate Office” will hold up for much longer.