Man worked at restaurant for a year without pay, picketers claim

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC-TV) - A Memphis man allegedly worked at a restaurant in Southaven without pay for more than a year, picketers said Friday.

As traffic zipped by, a group of activists picketed along Main Street in Southaven in front of the El Patron restaurant.

"We're trying to collect $16,000 owed to an ex-worker that used to work here," Alfredo Pena said.

Pena, a coordinator with the Workers Interfaith Network, said Jorge Panuco, a former waiter at the restaurant, worked for 14 months without receiving a paycheck.

"He actually didn't know there was minimum wage for tip employees," Pena said. "He thought, he's a new immigrant to this country, thinking that whatever people pay that's what you gotta take home. That's about it."

With a protest in front of his restaurant, the owner of El Patron met with Pena for negotiations.  That meeting, however, eventually soured.

"I said, 'Just give us a payment and I can get everybody out of here'," Pena said. "Hopefully he'll come out with a check and try to resolve this problem soon."

The restaurant's owner refused an on camera interview, and eventually called police.  Officers demanded peace, but ultimately left the picketers alone.

Pena vowed to keep up the pressure on El Patron until the disagreement is resolved.

Panuco, meanwhile, is not working right now.  According to Pena, he has not worked since leaving the restaurant.

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