We have bills to pay

Nicole Colson reports on a strike of restaurant workers in Gainesville, Fla.

Tasty Buddha restaurant in Gainesville, Fla.Tasty Buddha restaurant in Gainesville, Fla.

A GROUP of employees at a Tasty Buddha restaurant in Gainesville, Fla., began picketing outside the restaurant July 20 after discovering that their paychecks bounced due to "insufficient funds."

Workers say that this is not the first time this has happened--but they finally became fed up, and decided to strike and make their grievances public. "When this stuff happens, our bills become delayed, and then we have to pay them late, and then you are stuck paying late fees and things like that," grill cook Andy Rodibaugh, explained to the Gainesville Sun.

On the restaurant's Facebook page, owner Parker van Hart defended himself, writing, "The people who work for me are my family, and until this morning, I believed they had my back and knew that I was doing everything I can to make sure we all stay employed."

Striking server Marissa Jane Pollack told the Sun: "It's pretty insulting to see our owner sort of talking out of two sides of his mouth. He claims that we are family to him, yet meanwhile, he doesn't have the respect to pay us on time. We are human beings, we have bills to pay."

According to Rodibaugh, the strike is designed "to shut down production as much as possible, give them the least amount of business until our demands are met." He said supporters were stopping by to deliver water and food to the striking workers.

What you can do

Contact Parker Van Hart's office to demand his employees be paid in full. Call 352-376-9006 or visit the company's Facebook page to leave a message in support of striking workers.

In a statement, striking workers from the Tasty Buddha explained:

The current staff of Tasty Buddha West (TBW) has worked to achieve record sales in 2013, pushing north of half a million dollars. This was borne out of a passion for food, a desire to see growth, close relations with patrons and the Gainesville community, and most dearly, family bonding amongst the staff. When we aren't paid, it hurts us personally. To hear that we are perceived as disposable and immediately replaceable saddens us. With a lack of respect from our employers and lack of resources, the morale of our crew diminishes. Today, we are coming together to show that we are not disposable, and we deserve respect, and most importantly, a fair pay schedule. We are walking out.

TBW employees demand that their checks arrive on time as promised at noon every other Friday and are valid to be cashed at the company's bank.

We, as the employees, will not stand for:

-- Late checks or bounced checks
-- Insufficient funds notices
-- Excuses or inconvenient methods of receiving pay (such as receiving small amounts of petty cash out of the drawer, being asked to wait days to cash checks, or being asked to drive across town to specific check cashing businesses).

In addition, the employees of Tasty Buddha West demand respect in regards to our other concerns:

-- Sanitary conditions of kitchen to be solved.
-- Equipment to be fixed.
-- Zero-tolerance policy for bullying, sexual harassment, and racial jokes.

If we are already being asked to work in uncomfortable conditions, we employees demand to at least get paid in a designated, timely manner. If our demands are not met then we refuse to work to create any more profit for a business that isn't paying us.

The Tasty Buddha workers are among a small but growing number of low-wage, service-sector employees who have organized and struck to win better pay and working conditions across the country in recent months.

As Pollack said, "We are trying to expedite things as quickly as possible, and we are giving Parker Van Hart every opportunity to meet with us and do what's right. And we are just going to keep pulling out more things from our arsenal as he fails to meet with us."

Jeremiah Cleghorn contributed to this article.