Victory march against deli that will close

'Victory' rally outside Gourmet Heaven in New Haven, Sept. 4, 2014.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A mid-morning rally outside New Haven’s Gourmet Heaven deli Thursday was labeled a “victory” rally. Last year, workers said they were not getting paid the legal minimum, so Yale students and others in the community started a boycott.

“They were on every Friday night at 5:30,” said Yale student Cathleen Calderon. “Every Friday night and it lasted every Friday night both semesters.”

Yale decided to end the leases for both Gourmet Heaven locations next June, after a state investigation led to criminal charges for the owner.

“What is happening is a big victory because it is a warning to all those who do the same to their workers,” said former employee Adin Morales, through a translator. “It gives us hope that in the future working conditions will be better.”

The rally then moved to New Haven court where Gourmet Heaven owner Chung Cho had a scheduled appearance on more than 40 counts of minimum wage violations and larceny – allegedly stealing from employees by not paying them enough. Workers told the state Department of Labor some got paid as little as $4.44 an hour, and worked long weeks without overtime. However, current Gourmet Heaven employees say they’re paid just fine.

Protesters outside Gourmet Heaven in New Haven (file).
Protesters outside Gourmet Heaven in New Haven (file).

“I can’t speak for other people, but me,” said Gourmet Heaven deli worker Alejandro Cardenas. “I’ve been working here for a year and a couple months and they pay me fair all the time.”

Some even pulled out their pay stubs that clear show hourly wages of $9 an hour and time and a half for overtime. “You really think we’d be working for $4 an hour?” asked Cardenas, shaking his head.

The court appearance for store owner Cho was brief. All they did was set a date for the trial to go forward. That is set for September 22nd. Then some of the workers and their advocates walked over to New Haven Mayor Toni Harp’s office, where they set a date to meet with the mayor next month about ways to prevent and deal with employee wage theft in the future.

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