An early morning “trick-or-treat” themed anti-wage theft action at 23 Julian St. in Providence, the home of Juan Noboa, was met with violence Saturday morning as Noboa allegedly assaulted one of his former workers with a baseball bat. About two dozen demonstrators arrived at Noboa’s door at 5:30 am, wearing costumes and carrying signs, there to demand that Noboa pay his former employees the $3,691.35 the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training deemed to be owed on June 30th, a small fraction of the $17,427.00 in unpaid wages that workers claim to be owed.
To date, Noboa and his partner, Jose Bren, have not paid, necessitating Saturday morning’s action. Instead of paying, Noboa came out swinging with a baseball bat.
According to Fuerza Laboral community organizer Phoebe Gardener,
In our early morning wage theft action today, former Café Atlantic restaurant owner Juan Noboa physically assaulted one of the worker leaders, Flor Salazar, with a bat, hitting her three times in the arm and shoulder but aiming for her head. Flor was there with two other workers who Juan Noboa and business partner Jose Bren owe over $17,000 in stolen wages to. Café Atlantic workers have been organizing for 10 months for their wages, including a previous action at Juan Noboa’s house back in January.
“On June 30th, the RI Department of Labor issued an official order for Juan Noboa and business partner Jose Bren to pay just below $4,000 (only a fraction of the money claimed in their original complaints) to 4 of the 6 workers who filed complaints. It’s been 4 months, and Noboa and Bren still haven’t paid. Workers had no other option then to use community pressure to force Noboa to pay, and Noboa responds by assaulting workers.”
Flor Salazar was taken to the hospital where she was released after determining that she had no broken bones but two or three contusions.
When Providence Police arrived just after 6:30am, Noboa answered the door, according to Providence in Espanol, “screaming about the protesters. Noboa then tried to run, and the police chased him in his home, authorities said… After the altercation, an officer [was] transported by a rescue vehicle fire department at Rhode Island Hospital with a possible broken foot.”
This was the second time workers demonstrated outside the home of Juan Noboa over this issue. Back in January workers went to Noboa’s home, and days later Noboa, through his lawyer, denied owing any money.
In a statement prepared before the action and before she was assaulted, Flor Salazar, who worked between 60 and 70 hours a week at Café Atlantic between August 1st and September 28th of 2014, said, “The DLT decision requires Café Atlantic to pay just a percentage of the total wages we are due, but we thought that Noboa and Bren would at least pay up now with an official order from the state. Workers won’t come forward if they feel that the DLT doesn’t have the tools to actually recover their wages. This isn’t just about our wages. This is about bringing justice for working families and single mothers.”
Wage theft is endemic in the restaurant industry in Rhode Island, yet there is very little recourse available to workers wanting to collect stolen wages. If an employee steals from their employer, they can face arrest and serious legal consequences. If an employer steals from an employee, there is little chance that they will suffer any serious legal consequences.