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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Police gone wild on workers protesting unfair labor practices

Providence, Rhode Island:

On Friday, August 11th, officers stopped protestors peacefully marching and followed the leaders onto the grass in front of a store. One of the organizers of the march, Providence pastry shop worker, Alex Svoboda, was tackled by four officers, dislocating her knee. The Providence Journal reports that Svoboda was part of a protest against Jacky's Galaxie, a Pan-Asian restaurant in the suburb of North Providence.

The protest was led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in response to the unfair labor practices of Dragon Land Trading Company, a restaurant supply company in New York City, that supplies restaurants throughout the West Coast. Mark Bray, of the Providence chapter of the IWW, says that Dragon Land recently changed their name to avoid scrutiny from the New York attorney's office following several firings of HWH employees suspected of union organizing activity.

Balthazer Ramos describes working for Dragon Land for over two years, working one hundred or more hours a week making deliveries and receiving no overtime. He was present at the march, holding a sign that read "Solidaridad Con Los Obreros de HWH/DragonLand". Dragon Land Trading is currently facing several unfair labor practice charges for unfairly firing workers engaged in union activity, as well as paying workers below the minimum wage and not compensating them for overtime.

Mark Bray explains: "The workers at HWH [now Dragon Land] are being paid less than 5 dollars an hour and working upwards of one hundred hours a week. The IWW has chosen to represent these workers because they deserve better. The owner of Jacky's Galaxie claims they've switched suppliers, but he's chosen not to give us copies of his invoices, either with the new supplier of with HWH."

Alex Svoboda is in the hospital, awaiting a second surgery on her knee. The IWW is working with a pro bono lawyer from the National Lawyer's Guild to file suit against the North Providence Police Department and the city for excessive and unjustified use of force against a peaceful protester.

After the incident, the remaining protesters stood near Jacky's Galaxie and continued to protest the unfair treatment of their members. From the Providence Journal article:

"'You’ve got to do something,' the restaurant’s owner, Jacky Ko, said to the officers. 'They can’t stay here.'

When Deputy Police Chief Paul Marino approached to tell the protesters they needed to move onto the sidewalk instead of standing in the parking lot, one responded, 'Hell of a day to be an officer, breaking a young girl’s leg!'

Marino did not respond."

Ko claims that he switched suppliers last month, but we were unable to confirm this at the time of this writing. According to Bray, the IWW is encouraging other restaurants in the area to end their relationship with Dragon Land Trading, but declined to name them, hoping that they will choose to avoid unnecessary controversy.

For more on this story, read the article in the Providence Journal, and check out photos from the incident at Jonathan Macintosh's photo gallery.

To learn more, or to communicate with the interested parties, here is their contact information:

Providence General Membership Branch(address below) or contact Mark Frey at 201-669-0714 or Billy Randel at 646-645-6284.

Providence GMB:
PO box 5795
Providence R.I.


North Providence Mayor:
Charles A. Lombardi
North Providence Town Hall
2000 Smith Street
North Providence, RI 02911
Telephone: (401) 232-0900, ext. 226
Fax: (401) 232-3434

Police Chief:
Ernest C. Spaziano
North Providence Police Department
1967 Mineral Spring Ave.
North Providence, R.I. 02904
Business line: 401-233-1433
Fax number: 401-233-1438

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