Gourmet Heaven, Hell for Workers

There’s an uprising going on in downtown Providence—former workers from luxury deli Gourmet Heaven fighting to win back stolen wages and stop the culture of abuse at the store.

These workers were on the clock 65 to 85 hours a week, getting paid as little as $4.50 per hour. And when two workers fell down a flight of stairs as managers put the pressure on for people to work faster and faster, they were told not to go to the hospital, or else they would get fired. One manager even punched a worker in the stomach one day when he went to take the trash out.

But one day they heard about workers in New Haven, CT, who workers at another Gourmet Heaven location, standing up for their rights. They liked what they heard, and decided to get organized. With support from RI JWJ and our allies at Fuerza Laboral (Power of Workers), they’ve devised a plan—not only to win back their wages, but also to use their actions to support other workers going through the same thing, and raise awareness about the need to better enforce laws against wage theft.

At our last action at the store, we took our public education efforts to the streets, with a street theater skit devised by workers from the store, and other workers who have organized to fight back against wage theft, that recast the drama of “Gourmet Heaven / Worker Hell.”

Workers filed a case in federal court earlier this year, and aim to meet with the owner of the company to begin discussing a settlement later this year. P’alante!

GH Inside 1