GSC presents letter to Epicurean

November 14, 2013

Georgetown Solidarity Committee, with student leaders from the Georgetown University Student Association, the Georgetown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, delivered a petition on Monday to the owner of Epicurean and Co., Chang Wook Chon, demanding his restaurant abide by the university’s Just Employment Policy.

GSC’s petition garnered more than 500 signatures. It arose from concerns that Epicurean working conditions have not improved since the closing of a civil case brought against Chon by former employees in the fall of 2012. The case alleged that Chon, in an attempt to suppress a separate wage theft lawsuit, offered bribes and even threatened to deport employees who spoke out.

After receiving the petition, Chon asserted that its complaints were invalid. “I understand that there was an issue last year, but it has been taken care of. I think I have been [following regulations],” he said to the student leaders. “I got a lesson, and now am according to the well-being policy.”

He declined to respond to the Voice’s further questions on the petition after the student leaders departed, only expressing surprise. “I ask to give me some time to read the petition,” he said. An Epicurean manager said Chon was unavailable for further comment on Tuesday.

The petition contains three core demands. The University must run random wage audits on Epicurean. It should also interview workers to ensure a quality workplace, and finally Epicurean employees should all undergo Just Employment Policy training so they know how to speak out for help.

However, the University holds it has already fulfilled requests. Associate Vice President and Chief Business Officer Deborah Morey said the University already conducts random wage audits and regularly speaks with Epicurean workers.

“We don’t [interview workers] in a formal way, but we do have ways that we check to make sure that employees, if they didn’t want to go to their union, their manager, or their supervisor, would have a phone number to call to lodge a complaint—and they do,” she said. “That really is a good feedback mechanism and it goes outside campus to a [Human Resources] specialist.”

Rachel Pugh, director of media relations, also wrote in an email to the Voice that the University had already “created a video explaining the Just Employment Policy that new employees are shown at orientation and that is available online to anyone.”

Regardless of the petition’s criticisms of the University, Erik Smulson, vice president for public affairs and senior advisor to the President, praised the efforts of the concerned students. “I thought that the petition was very well done and respectful. We all hold ourselves to a very high standard,” he said.

In addition to presenting the petition, student supporters gifted flowers and thank-you cards to Epicurean employees as well.

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