[Marxism] Tom Colicchio: Top Chef or Top (Wage) Thief

MICHAEL YATES mikedjyates at msn.com
Tue Dec 30 14:56:49 MST 2008


Karen and I have watched hundreds of cooking shows on television. One of our early favorites was Top Chef, in which a group of talented cooks compete in an elimination format for a large monetary prize and designation as "Top Chef." The chief judge on the show is Tom Colicchio, a noted chef who has won five James Beard awards. Collicchio has parlayed his cooking prowess into a career as an entrepreneur and is now the owner of the Craft group of restaurants, with venues in New York Cit and around the country. On the show, his opinions of the chefs matters most; if you watch carefully, you soon see that what he says goes. To the aspiring top chefs, Colicchio is imperious and demanding, critical to a fault and not accepting of excuses, no matter how valid they might be. The contestants usually seem to fear him; it certainly is true that they challenge him at their peril.
 
Given the way her carries himself, it would be reasonable for viewers to think that he is above reproach  in his own restaurant affairs. Thus I am sure that it came as a shock to fans of his and the show that he and his restaurants are now defendants in a class action civil suit alleging wage theft. New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse wrote that, 
 
"The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accused management of violations of federal and state wage laws, including failing to pay workers time and a half for all hours worked over 40. It also asserts that management shared employee tips with other workers who are not qualified under federal and state law to share in the tip pool."
 
The well-regarded law firm filing the suit, Outten & Golden LLP, states on its website that,
 
“On December 11, 2008, Outten & Golden filed a nationwide class action against celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and his Craft-brand of restaurants – Craft, Craftsteak, and Craftbar. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the restaurants’ waiters, bussers, runners, and other hourly service workers, claims that Colicchio deprived his workers of the tips they earned, failed to pay them overtime for all of the hours they worked over forty in a week, did not pay at the proper minimum wage rate, and made other unlawful deductions from the workers’ pay. The complaint also alleges that suit’s named plaintiff, Nessa Rapone, was fired in retaliation for raising concerns with management about the restaurants’ wage and hour policies."
 
Serious charges. I don’t know if Colicchio and company are guilty, although given his supercilious demeanor on Top Chef, I would be the first to say, "It figures," if he is. On Greenhouse’s blog, there are several dozen comments, and most of them express little surprise at the suit and assume that it is very likely true. Many of the comments are from current or former restaurant workers who have had their wages stolen. 
 
In fact, wage theft seems to be epidemic in the United States. Kim Bobo, founder and Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, has written a book, Wage Theft in America, documenting this employer crime. Bobo tells us that,
 
"Billions of dollars in wages are being illegally stolen from millions of workers each and every year. The employers range from small neighborhood businesses to some of the nation’s largest employers —Wal-Mart, Tyson, McDonald’s, Target, Pulte Homes, federal, state, and local governments and many more.
 
Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid all their wages, workers are denied overtime when they should be paid it, or workers aren’t paid at all for work they’ve performed. Wage theft is when an employer violates the law and deprives a worker of legally mandated wages.”                         
 
Wage theft is widespread and pervasive across all types of companies. Various surveys have found that:
 
60 percent of nursing homes stole workers’ wages.89 percent of nonmonitored garment factories in Los Angeles and 67 
percent of nonmonitored garment factories in New York City stole workers’ wages.25 percent of tomato producers, 35 percent of lettuce producers, 51 percent of cucumber producers, 58 percent of onion producers, and 62 percent of garlic producers hiring farm workers stole workers’ wages.78 percent of restaurants in New Orleans stole workers’ wages.Almost half of day laborers, who tend to focus on construction work, 
have had their wages stolen.100 percent of poultry plants steal workers’ wages.
 
Full at http://blog.cheapmotelsandahotplate.org


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