Former La Taqueria employee Victoria Romero addresses the media at a July 3 press conference. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

The ringleaders of a kitchen uprising in San Francisco’s famed La Taqueria restaurant that resulted in a hefty settlement for a litany of workplace wrongdoings will be taking their payouts to go.

The five former employees alleged, among other claims, that they had been forced to work 10-hour days without overtime pay and were denied sick leave. Their accusations led to an investigation of the restaurant by the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement and the state Bureau of Field Enforcement, which found that La Taqueria had violated state and city laws pertaining to overtime pay, and that it failed to provide healthcare for its employees. There were also paid sick leave violations and inaccuracies in the employees’ paychecks.

But even before the claims were settled, four of the organizers at La Taqueria were fired and another quit. The employees, all women, held a press conference today at the city offices of Young Workers United detailing the roughly $500,000 settlement La Taqueria was forced to disseminate to 30 current and former workers.

Photo by Eugeniya Kirovskaya

One former employee, who identified herself as Claudia, said conditions at La Taqueria were oppressive. An immigrant from Honduras, Claudia fought to bring her children from Central America. When one of her kids needed surgery, Claudia said she had to get two co-workers to cover her shift and lost pay.

Palyn Mitchell, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, said La Taqueria — which received international acclaim after it was named the No. 1 burrito joint in the country by the website FiveThirtyEight — hadn’t done enough to notify employees of their rights. Some employees were afraid to speak up because they feared reprisals.

“A lot of these workers have said to me, ‘if it were just me, I wouldn’t care. But it’s my family, too.’ And they don’t want to jeopardize their job,” Mitchell said.

Under city law, a for-profit business with more than 20 employees has to put money towards its workers’ health care and contribute to a medical plan or the city’s health-care fund. Employees can also request paid sick leave of up to 72 hours in San Francisco.

At the press conference, Mission District Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she planned to give the five women commendations at the Board of Supervisors for their accomplishments.

“It’s not easy to learn about your rights and then take action,” she said. “When employers are skirting the laws, they make life even more difficult for the people of San Francisco.”

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  1. those burritos ain’t that good. If Ima pay that much, I’d rather go to El Papalote.

  2. Miguel (?) and the employees i would see there regularly in the days when i patronized this establishment fairly often, always seemed content with their jobs. on more than one occasion the owner offered me lunch on the house and i assume he did this with other regulars (i always said “that’s ok, i’m working, i have the money”). i was happy to see La Taqueria recognized with that award or whatever it was and always glad to see a line of people waiting to order and the seats and tables full when i passed by on my way to BART, thinking to myself or commenting to a companion that it’s so good to see a family-owned business being so successful and continuing to offer quality food after all these years. i was really surprised to get this latest news about not only the treatment of at least some employees but also their firing. this changes my impression of the owner and i really wish he had just abided by the law and certainly that he hadn’t retaliated against his workers this way. i have been seeing Julia (?) at the cash register for decades and even made a point of visiting San Luis Potosi after she told me that was her home and i felt good assuming that some La Taqueria employees had been able to make careers supporting themselves working there. just a very sad situation and a reminder that exploitation is an integral part of “our” economy.

  3. I use to go there quite often as a SF native. Now, I just walk pass it. Super expensive and really they’re not all that anymore.

  4. Conditions in their own Native lands must have even been Worse, and since there are just over 300 Million already Living in the United States and between India and China there are 3 BILLION people living worse than these 300 Million , well Lets just Open Up the Doors and Improve the Lives to the 3 BILLION unhappy OTHERs .. Hell Invite them ALL ..

    1. You are so right, “Roberto.” We should enjoy cheap food at the expense (literally) of vulnerable people. Thank you for setting us straight.