Keeping quiet wasn’t too difficult for a while longer because I was making a decent take-home wage between the two restaurants. Eventually it would resurface, mainly in wondering what I could do about it.
In the meantime winter had passed and spring was in the air, mild as it was but that’s the city by the bay for you. It was now April and much to my surprise Bill and Jack wanted to celebrate my 24th birthday there at the restaurant.
Wow! They suggested I could call over a few friends if I wanted and we’d all make a good time of it. How generous; perhaps it was a stroke of appreciation for helping their business to grow. Either way it was very nice of them.
Now down the road a ways there was one particular man (let’s call him Sam) who came in a couple of times and he did seem to enjoy exchanging dialogue with me. We spoke casually and he managed in conversation to get some information from me about my working conditions. I thought absolutely nothing about it.
Sam started the first time we met by asking me a little about the history of the restaurant. There was no yarn spinning here, I shared with him what I knew. That was about the sum of it.
He then returned the next week. Sam remembered my name and in greeting, he told me he had enjoyed the food last time and then from a friend he had heard about the ‘Jadoo’ stating it’s what brought him back in.
I took his order and then brought out his appetizer basket and a glass of ‘Jadoo’ he was intrigued. I told him I am the one who introduced it to the owners. In the course of the evening in between servicing his table and the others in the dining room -I am the only server- we talked a little about me.
He enquired a little as to my personal history, what brought me here and how did I end up working in this little Indian restaurant. When pressed for time believe it or not I can tell a piece of the story briefly enough!
Anyhow the chat led to how was I doing for pay; was it enough to live off of? Sam didn’t seem to think it would be. Here’s where it got sticky though I didn’t realise how sticky it would become.
I told Sam straight up about our agreement, the one between Jack, Bill and myself. Business certainly had picked up but the promised set wage had not yet begun. ‘And to top it off, they are taking half of my tips every night,’ I plainly said to Sam.
His mouth fell open in surprise no doubt. “It’s one thing not paying you a set wage, you knowingly agreed to that but to actually take money from you?” Sam was clearly upset. “No, no, this will never do!” I felt a little comforted knowing that someone else beside me didn’t approve of it.
All of this discussion took place during a few rounds between tables of course. Sam knew I was allowed a meal every shift and that’s alright but they, to not beat around the bush, were stealing from me. He seemed as though he would make sure I didn’t stand for it any longer.
“I say Blue, go to the Union and see what they have to say about this.” I hadn’t told him I was already a member, see I never gave much thought about what the Union really meant for me. And even after he mentioned this, I quietly listened to his opinion about the whole thing.
Over the next couple of days, still going in to work of course, I pondered the whole thing over. At last I made the decision to go into the office. First they asked me to show my Union member card which I had safely tucked into my wallet. “Okay let’s get started!”
I gave the initial summary of why I was there and shortly afterwards, I was taken into a back office. There the full details surfaced based on the questions I was asked.
I was told not to speak of my visit to the Union to anyone and not to worry about anything. “You did the right thing addressing the issue to us. We’ll handle everything from here.” a Union representative assured me.
He also told me that a field agent would be visiting the establishment to observe. I of course wouldn’t know this person from Adam and that was just fine by me.
Confident that I did the right thing, I returned to my normal days and nights. Also I was very glad and most grateful at least I had the other job where there was a steady, reliable wage and I did pretty darned good in my daily tips. Another perk was I was fed both breakfast and lunch at the Italian joint.
Best as my memory has served me, it was about a week, maybe 10 days before a change was noticeable. One evening as dinner was close to the end, some men came in and went back into the kitchen. The big and small of it?
Bill and Jack were told the restaurant was under investigation under the Labor Department and would be closed until further notice, pending such investigation and its findings.
They would wait till all the customers had left and the restaurant was closed immediately thereafter. A sign was pasted up on the window facing the street, stating such but without personal embarrassing details.
This was my last night there too. Honestly though I had felt just a little sad that it all had to go this way. This is also the one night Bill and Jack didn’t help themselves to half of my night’s tips. I was safely sent out into the night.