If you’ve ever been in New York and wanted good Sichuanese food, you’ve probably found yourself at Wu Liang Ye: with so few authentic options, your choices are pretty much limited to them and Grand Sichuan. Though this isn’t Shanghai news, it’s still pretty interesting: we never knew that the Chinese government owned the restaurants! In the wake of a labor dispute with their workers, it seems that the Village Voice did some uncovering, and gives you the issues behind why the laborers are having such a hard time seeking justice:
From The Village Voice:
Here’s where things get sticky–the three Wu Liang Ye restaurants in New York were all opened by Liang Zhang, who was an employee of the Chinese-government backed company Wu Liang Ye China. According to documents from Zhang’s lawyer, Wu Liang Ye China sent Zhang to the United States for the express purpose of opening restaurants. The restaurants were then held by a new corporation called Wu Liang Ye U.S.A, a subsidiary of Wu Liang Ye China. But in 2001, the 48th Street location sold its business and lease to a company called Sunshine U.S.A. Inc.
The 48th Street location, therefore, claims that it is totally unrelated to this labor dispute, as it is no longer affiliated with Wu Liang Ye U.S.A or Wu Liang Ye China. Cao disputed that, saying that in his experience, the three restaurants had operated as one entity, and Mika Nagasaki, a representative from Justice Will Be Served, a campaign supporting the workers, countered by saying, “it doesn’t matter who they say they are on paper.”
We guess we’re not actually that surprised: most independent Chinese restaurants in New York end up modifying their dishes for a western palate, and it makes sense that only someone very intent on preserving authentic Chinese food would keep the restaurant that way. And it just fits: from the poor labor conditions to the shady business practices, it seems as if they’re trying to recreate a Chinese restaurant from the mainland right across from Rockefeller center. They did a good job (that’s why we love them), but it’s a little bit more difficult (read: there are laws you have to follow) than in China.