New Haven immigrant workers rally against pay as low as $3 per hour

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NEW HAVEN -- A rally was held in New Haven on Thursday for immigrant workers to air their grievances over low pay.

A judge ruled earlier in the week that Gourmet Heaven, a 24-hour grocery store on Yale's campus, must pay more than $175,000 in damages to immigrant workers.

Some of those employees worked for as little as $3 per hour, but started to protest it years ago. In 2013 community activists and Yale students teamed up to picket the grocery store for its low wages.

After that some employees--at least six--were fired or got fewer hours in retaliation, which the court found to be illegal. The court said the workers have a right to take part in community advocacy.

Some of the employees spoke at the rally, which was organized by Unidad Latina en Accion, or ULA; New Haven Legal Assistance Association; Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School; Yale students; and community members.

The rally was held in front of Atticus Bookstore and Cafe because the ULA claims an employee was fired after 11 years of employment there because he advocated against wage cuts, hour cuts and healthcare cuts.

However, Charlie Negaro sent a statement to FOX 61 in response, saying the claims are false:

I am writing to respond to the false accusations by ULA. We would like to set the record straight. I would also like to apologize for the disturbance to all of our customers and the New Haven community.

We are deeply committed to contributing to a more just and sustainable society and a better New Haven. We feel we are being unfairly targeted by ULA. We are happy to have an open conversation with anyone interested in the truth.

In November of 2015 we fired an employee for cause. It was a professional, multi-month, fair process. We do not share specific details about our employees, we respect their privacy. We deeply believe our employees are the core of our business and strive to run the best possible organization.

All of ULA’s claims surrounding his termination are untrue and fabricated. All of their accusations surrounding unfair labor practices are also fabricated.

We have a 40 year history of doing right by our employees and community. 40 years of being a social impact business before there was even a name for that. For example we have offered health and dental coverage to every employee for over 10 years. We currently cover more than 70% of the premiums and all of the deductible. There hasn’t been a cost increase to our employees for many years; we have always done what we can to absorb it. We feed all of our employees lunch every day of the year. As well as providing many many other benefits. We do the right thing.

We know actions speak louder than words. Please look at our record and watch what we do.