Last year, in November, I landed my first fine dining job at a really beautiful worldwide multi-million dollar chain restaurant called Trader Vicís. I was really happy. I thought, I would finally have a job working in a gorgeous restaurant that pays good money for part-time work to support myself through college. However, working there for the first two months I was highly stressed. I was part of the opening crew and had an extensive menu to learn on top of a full time school load. I learned sooner than later that we also had to deal with bad management at Trader Vicís. The managers were imported from Europe and other countries and they treated us like kids - by managing us with intimidation and favoritism. With condescending attitudes, they threatened to write us up if we didnít learn the details of an extensive menu in a month. We worked over 8 hours without getting any breaks. They hired me knowing I had no fine dining experience yet the managers glared at me menacingly every time I made a mistake. One time I totally forgot to pour a taste of wine to the guest who bought the wine at the table and my manager saw me and yelled at me afterwards, yelling at me over and over again, ďWHY??Ē Why? Because Iím a human being I make mistakes. Without previous fine dining experience, I am bound to make mistakes when it comes to the numerous details that embodies the art of fine dining. I was terribly miserable, and I woke up every day dreading to go to work. I talked to my fellow co-workers to find out how they felt and it turned out they were just as miserable as I was. The question then arose, is it too much to ask for, to be happy at a job? Most of my colleagues said yes, it is indeed too much to ask for, that a job is simply what you have to do to get by whether you like it or not.
Needless to say, I quit the job two months later to make myself happy. 4 months later, I saw a flyer at school about Young Workers United and found it immensely interesting. I decided to go to their next meeting to find out what it was all about. I ended up presenting my case with Trader Vicís regarding the break issue with the Worker Justice committee. I wrote a letter to Trader Vicís, requesting my timecards and personnel file and informed them they had broke the law by not providing their workers breaks. I received my timecards a month later, and also heard from their lawyer, who they had just hired, who also made a nasty phone call to Young Workers. I wrote them a second letter, stating the amount they owe me, and advised them it would be best if they started giving their employees breaks. A week after the second letter was written, because we hadnít heard back from them we decided to pay Trader Vicís a visit. On July 1st, Sara, Jason, Mehera, Tanayeh and I went to Trader Vicís and talked to the workers. When asked whether or not the management have started providing breaks, the workers said disappointingly, ďHell no!Ē We left, satisfied with the feedback and informtion we received from the workers we had made, and went straight to the DLSE to file the official wage claim form.
On July 11, I talked to a former employee about his experience working there. He happily informed me that the employees of Trader Vicís have finally started getting breaks. I was pleasantly surprised and thought, wow, this is what we have done. Without any of our direct action and organizing their work experience wouldíve been the same. I felt satisfied in knowing that we made all this happen. The former employee happily informed me that he was much happier working there because they now feel respected by the managers. The managersí attitudes and work conditions drastically improved. It seemed to me as if the Trader Vicís managers have learned that even the workers have power, too, so because of that they are treating them with the respect they deserve.