NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Wednesday workers who say they were ripped off by a New Haven deli owner spoke out. The Gourmet Heaven employees said some of them worked 60 to 70 hours a week and only made $400.
It’s a victory for underpaid workers everywhere, a press conference about the arrest of Chun Cho, Gourmet Heavens owner, arrested for wage violations.
“I truly wish that we don’t need to be here today because in an ideal world people would do the right thing,” said Archie Generoso, New Haven Police Department.
But workers say Cho didn’t do the right thing. They filed complaints with the State Department of Labor, then were fired because of it, sparking outrage in the community and further action from the State DOL.
Julio Oliver says all he ever wanted was to work and be paid fairly.
“When you start at work the employer expects you to be a good worker and work hard,” said Oliver.
He says in return for his hard work, he and others were paid well below minimum wage some as little as $4.16 an hour.
And after months of fighting for his right to fair wage, Wednesday he celebrated.
The decision to arrest Cho was surprising to some but police say it wasn’t their first choice, it was their last but its sending a tough message to anyone who thinks about violating labor laws.
“We do want to emphasize that most of our cases do not go to this level of criminal charges but we are certainly prepared to do that when necessary,” said Blair Bertaccini, State Wage Enforcement Agent.
Cho was arrested for failure to pay wages, failure to pay overtime, and other charges related to not paying a fair wage. He faces up to a year in jail.
While Oliver and others won this battle, civil rights organizations say the war on inequality is far from over.
“My message to the workers is always write down the hours that you work and let us know to help us out and recover the stolen wages,” said Luis Ramirez, Unidad Latina