Tuesday, August 7, 2007

To Boycott or Not To Boycott?

*Long Post Alert*


For anyone living in the Toronto or Barrie areas, this is a post about a restaurant I used to work for, one that violates many MANY labour laws and treats their employees like shit on a whim that they will not explain to you when you ask them about it. It comes to no surprise to me to hear then the treatment of a friend of mine who must still work there.

She is an immigrant who until recently was here illegally. She has since filed her papers, and so won't be made to leave the country, but while she waits for them to grant her status, she must work under the table in order to survive. She is not left with a lot of recourse as such, when she is being mistreated.

At first, my former bosses took pity on her and gave her a job working at their restaurant so she could make ends meet while getting her papers in order. It was actually quite a nice thing for them to do, a favour even, that could get them into some potential trouble. She was grateful; we were all happy to work with her. She was just trying to get by like all the rest of us on this planet.

However, it was not long before this favour jumped to exploitation.

Soon, they started to use her to work long hours that they didn't want to pay their legal employees. They would withdraw days off from her to give them to someone else who would request one. They would purposely tease her to see if they can get her to cry. They would make her plead and bargain for days off when she needed them. And for the past few months, if not year, they have been making her BEG for her paycheques.

Sometimes, they make her wait a month. And recently, the manager at the top of her location has started to call her a CUNT after she's come begging for her pay. Yes, that's right, he tells her "Here's your money, cunt."

Those pieces of shit.

She's lucky; her tips and the money her husband makes gets them by fine. She just needs these paycheques so she can send them back to her sick dad back home. But still they make her beg. BEG.

I asked her if there was malice in his voice when he called her cunt: did he think he was goofing with her when he would talk to her like that? She said that he does seem to find it funny to treat her this way. Some joke. I laughed all the way to my computer.

I don't understand this attitude. These men who run that location, their parents who own this franchise are immigrants themselves. They came here from Korea, honest and hardworking (and also fun-loving...it was pure laughs to work with them). We live in a country whose history is coloured by colonization, and needs immigration to survive. How did these owners raise such spoiled, unsympathetic, lazy sons? Their parents, during the time they spent cultivating this location before moving on to another, ran the restaurant pretty well. I had a blast my first summer there. Then the elder ones left. And the boys went wild.

I will give credit to their middle son; he's very nice, studious, works hard, and doesn't have the stupid, selfish and cruel streaks that his brothers seem to have. He is completely outside of my complaint though in part because he does not work for the family company to see this bullshit go on. I have a feeling he'd be pretty disgusted.

As am I, clearly.

But what to do?

She needs to work. She's been offered other under the table serving jobs, but she says once she gets her papers, she's getting out of the service industry completely, and doesn't want to work for someone else who may just end up being the same. Her papers are supposed to come sometime this year; I'm crossing my fingers that they process by the end of next week.

Do I call for a boycott on all these locations? Demand people to steer away from a place where such horrible treatment of employees goes on? But if no one visits this place, how will she make any money while her paycheques are being held back?

There are so many issues involved here: immigration, exploitation, workers' rights, class privilege, not to mention the continued devaluation of anything female by the ways in which words like "bitch" and "cunt" get tossed around. In a situation like my friend's, how do you even empower such words in the first place? She's not in a place to think about the politics of language and hate. She's got to wait to obtain some legal status before she can do anything for herself, for immigrant rights, for feminism.

The system is so flawed. Fack.

I think perhaps I am more appalled than she is. She didn't know right away the significance of being called a 'cunt'. I'm not sure if that should lessen the severity of what is going on or not.

It doesn't lessen my anger, that's for sure.

But what can anyone really do in this situation? This is not a rhetorical question. Someone answer me please!

Methinks some rotten eggs need to be harvested and then projected ever so violently onto some spoiled brats' lavish condos. Hmmmm.

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