Around 100 restaurant and home-aid workers from New York’s Chinatown assembled outside the office of New York State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D-Lower Manhattan) on Wednesday to stop her bid for congressional office.
Participants in the rally organized by the Youth Against Sweatshops and Chinese Staff & Workers Association chanted “Yuh-Line Niou, Shame On You!” and claimed that she sides with “sweatshop bosses” over community members. A Linktree created by Youth Against Sweatshops lists a collection of articles and social media posts that lay out their grievances with Niou.
“I am standing out against Yuh-Line for selling out workers, for having the gall to then run for Congress,” said rallyist Vincent Cao, who lost his job at the closed Joy Luck Palace eatery. “Wage theft is rampant today because people like Yuh-Line Niou look the other way.”
Cao and other Joy Luck Palace employees filed a lawsuit against the restaurant for stolen wages when it closed in 2019. They were awarded $1 million in back pay but claim that they have yet to receive any money from their former bosses, who reportedly have a close relationship with Niou.
“Niou actually presented a ‘Community Hero’ award to my sweatshop boss, the boss that owes me years of wages,” Cao said, referring to their old boss Patrick Mock and three other co-owners.
The workers argued that Niou’s actions and association with the exploitative owners disqualify her from seeking a congressional post.
According to the two local groups, Niou should withdraw her bid for Congress and get workers the money that has been promised to them. The rally organizers also urged voters not to vote for her in the Democratic Primary on Aug. 23.
They added that as their representative in Albany, Niou has done nothing so far to help their cause.
In response to the protesters, Niou’s campaign team released a statement that called the candidate “a leading voice since 2017 for the end of the 24-hour workday.”
“Yuh-Line has always stood with workers — on the picket lines, in the legislature, and now as a candidate for Congress,” said the campaign. “Yuh-Line will continue to use her voice and coalition building to advocate for all workers.”
The protest comes as an article in the Daily Beast dug into the 2016 Panama Papers leak to highlight that Niou’s family had a company formed by the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which provided offshore financial services to personalities involved in money laundering schemes.
“The Beast’s article falsely insinuates that Yuh-Line’s parents set up a shell company in order to quietly sneak money out of China,” the post read.