Fired workers escalate protest of Matsu Sushi
WESTPORT — Three months after a judge ordered two fired Matsu Sushi chefs reinstated, and the duo are still fighting for their old jobs back.
“The boss has no intention to solve the problem, so we are very angry. We ask that the boss recognize his own illegal behavior and reinstate me and Liguo (Ding),” said Jianming Jiang while protesting with a group of six supporters outside the downtown restaurant on Jan. 14.
In October, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board ordered two chefs fired for refusing to complete a 36-hour shift at Matsu Sushi be reinstated immediately. However, the workers have still not been restored in their old positions and vow to protest the sushi shop more frequently until the judge’s orders are met.
Jiang and Ding, both residents of Queens, N.Y., were fired from Matsu Sushi in December 2017 after the restaurant’s owners — Ziqiao Cao and Kim Ming Cheng — allegedly fired them for refusing to complete a 36-hour shift to finish a large lunch order from Bridgewater Associates.
Bridgewater, a Westport-based investment management firm, periodically put in larger lunch orders to Mastu. This prompted the restaurant’s owners to force Matsu employees to work from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. the following night, according to testimony before the National Labor Relations Board in July.
Ding and Jiang, who both worked at Matsu for over a decade before their termination, said the 36-hour shifts harmed their health and told the restaurant’s manager they would work normal hours, but not the full 36 hour shift and were subsequently terminated, the testimony reads.
Judge Kenneth W. Chu wrote in his Oct. 26 decision that Cao and Cheng discriminatorily fired Ding and Jiang, and ordered the owners to immediately reinstate Ding and Jiang to their positions, and also provide the fired workers with backpay and other expenses related to their loss of employment.
As of the Jan. 14 protest, Ding and Jiang had not been reinstated and Matsu’s owners could not be reached for comment. Matsu was granted an extension to appeal the decision until Dec. 22.
“The judge made a decision to reinstate the workers and compensate the workers’ backwages. What they’re doing is dragging it out and wasting money on layers and an appeal they won’t win,” Sarah Ahn, a Flushing Workers Center organizer that helped Ding and Jiang submit their case to the labor relations board, said at the protest.
Jiang said he was aware of correspondence between his lawyer and the restaurant about a Jan. 1 return date for the workers, but that Matsu allegedly reneged on the decision.
Jiang and Ding and their supporters, including two other workers who were fired from Matsu for refusing to work the 36-hour shift, said they plan to protest more often until reinstated.
“Everyone should be concerned about this,” said resident Sal Liccione, the sole Westport resident who protested with the workers on Monday. Liccione said he found out about the labor case when driving past the protest one day and called on all residents to get involved in the workers’ plight.
When asked for comment on the case and what the town can do to enforce the decision, First Selectman Jim Marpe said it’s not appropriate for him to comment on the specifics of litigation that is likely still being appealed.
“All employees deserve to be treated fairly and paid fairly in accordance with the law,” he said.
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