Chinatown’s Gang of Four

Food for Thought

These posters in my neighborhood got my attention last week because they featured a nicely drawn comic strip. It was about the wage theft at Joy Luck Palace in Chinatown. I Googled the topic and found that, in 2019, before the pandemic, the owners suddenly closed the business without paying the workers the wage totaling nearly a million dollars. The workers took them to court, but the owners did not show up, giving the workers a default win.

I learned that this is a common tactic many dishonest businesses employ. Before shutting down, they move all the assets to other businesses they own so that the creditors, including the workers, would have nothing to go after. They can shrug off and say they are broke. But, of course, that’s disingenuous. If they cared about their workers, they could have closed it before they run of money completely. Defaulting on other businesses is fine because every business operates with the understanding of default risk. This story of Joy Luck is particularly sad because these workers are utterly defenseless. There should indeed be a law to protect workers from wage theft.

Today, an angry mob gathered in front of Kam Hing Bakery, owned by one of the owners of Joy Luck. A few people representing Kam Hing came out, but they were silenced by the protesters yelling at them through amplifiers. I was curious to hear what they had to say. If I were the organizer, I would have given them the microphone and asked everyone to listen.

Oddly, half of the fury was directed at the local politician Yuh-Line Niou for giving one of the owners, Patrick Mock, the “community hero award” for helping the community during the pandemic. But, the honorees were nominated by the community, not by her, and he was only one of many.

There is so much anger in today’s political debates that I feel hopeless about resolving any conflicts. Many activists use political causes as outlets for their own unresolved anger, so it becomes difficult to discern which causes are worth supporting.

The organizers of this protest do not reveal their names on the website. If they knew how to properly debate, perhaps they would not need to hide their identities.