One of the states’ premier workers rights organizations has thrown itself into the ongoing dispute between the veritable poster child for Louisville’s “weird” independent business scene and the former employees who claim they were fired for speaking out about its policies.
From a modest west Louisville office, Kentucky Jobs With Justice Executive Director Bonifacio Flaco Aleman unveiled Service Workers for Justice, a new website that features the quasi-anonymous testimonies of former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe employees who claim mistreatment at the hands of their former employer.
The new site follows a widely publicized kerfuffle between the restaurant and former employee Leila DiFazio that originally broke on the Louisville Eater blog late last week. DiFazio was reportedly fired on Jan. 2, 2013, for speaking out about a new policy implemented by the restaurant that requires servers — not the restaurant — to provide a $100 “bank” for the purposes of tipping out coworkers, such as busboys and hosts. A request for comment from the restaurant has not been returned.
Owner Lynn Winter told the Louisville Eater blog that employees were made aware of the policy change, and that the restaurant instituted the new policy for a couple of different reasons, which included uncertainties over “the policies of Obamacare.”
Winter explained the requirement of waitstaff to carry $100 was to ensure they have “enough cash on hand to be able to tip the secondarily tipped people [buses, bartenders, foodrunners and expos] because I didn’t want them to say ‘I have no cash, I can’t tip you today.’”
“What I’ve been hearing from them is that they were very very worried that they were going to get stiffed by the waitstaff because they wouldn’t have any cash at the end of the day because they got so many credit card tips,” Winter said. Winter added that she verified that other local restaurants have similar requirements of their waitstaffs before she made the change, although she wouldn’t name them as she didn’t want to share another local business’s practices. Nationally, she said Bob Evans has a similar requirement.
Aleman says the intention of the site is to educate the city’s dining public about the harm these policies are causing its workers, and to pressure the restaurant to change them. Further, he hopes the new website fosters a broader conversation about the treatment of service sector employees — which represent one of the fastest growing segments of post-recession America — across the city and the state.