Dang, this sure sounds depressingly familiar:
Labor abuses and insults have become too much to swallow for a group of immigrant women who work as waitresses on commission — getting lonely customers to buy them overpriced beers and tequila shots.
“We decided to put a stop to the mistreatment, the stealing of our wages, at being fined for every little thing,” said Patricia Sanchez, who is suing her former bosses at La Fogata, a Mexican restaurant and bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She said the bosses failed to pay minimum wage and illegally deducted money from her pay.
The hazards of the job at such late-night spots, which cater to immigrant men, include everything from wage theft to sexual harassment from managers to health problems from drinking so much alcohol, waitresses and advocates say.
The more they drink, the more they earn. Customers buy the waitresses — who are largely undocumented immigrants from Mexico or Central America — drinks at inflated prices, and the women collect cash for every $20 tequila shot or $16 large bottle of Corona they down.
At many places, the waitresses get a ticket for each drink customers buy for them. But at La Fogata, managers kept track and often shorted the women when they gave them an envelope of cash each Sunday, Sanchez said. The base pay for a night is $40 — but the waitresses say they were promised $8 for each drink customers bought them.
“We are the ones who are damaging our health with the drinks …from 10 to 15 drinks a night,” said Sanchez, 34, a single mom from Mexico.
Sanchez and two coworkers who also filed suit in federal court last month said waitresses at La Fogata get fined $10 for things like spilling water or not showing up in a short enough skirt. If customers leave without paying, it comes out of the waitresses’ pockets, they said.
“Girls that don’t sell drinks, they don’t get paid,” said Rosa Vidal, 37.
As soon as I saw that part about partying with the customers and getting them to buy drinks for the women, I was reminded of Lupita’s book, which I translated. That shit goes on in ALL the Mexican nightclubs where she worked as a table dancer. Even the “best” establishments were guilty of it. Of course, in those joints, the girls usually got colored water to drink, or else pitchers of very diluted beer, so they wouldn’t have to work impaired. The ruse worked — most of the time. Sometimes, with predictably violent and outrageous results, the customers got wise. You wouldn’t want to be working when THAT happened.
But this didn’t happen in Mexico. It happened in New York. Where this sort of thing is, one would think, highly illegal (it is in Canada!). Staffers aren’t supposed to drink on the job, for reasons obvious. It creates a dangerous work environment and it’s unprofessional.
Plus, those liquor prices? Fucking extortionate. Who pays that? And demanding that waitresses cajole an already strapped immigrant worker to buy for them, on top of all that? At a bare minimum, it’s unethical. I suspect that this, too, is highly illegal.
Maybe this stuff flies below the radar more often than we think, given the number of undocumented immigrants in NYC alone, but these waitresses coming forward could change all that. I hope they do.