SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Yank Sing has won all the major awards, but there was a dark side to this family-owned, Zagat and Michelin rated restaurant.

Servers and kitchen staff said for years they were underpaid, and faced daily mental and physical abuses.

KPIX 5 got a copy of a  letter workers sent to the owners, alleging “managers even hit some workers,” and in one case “used a steel pipe to threaten to hit the worker.”

Hungry kitchen help said during one meal time, “when we ate a second piece of bun, the manager would grab it from us and toss it in the trash.”

“I don’t think a lot of those things in the letter are true,” said Yank Sing manager Jonathan Glick, “but we did have a slew of issues, and we did make significant mistakes.”

The owners hired Glick to fix the problems.

Community groups who investigate the restaurant industry said low paying workers are often exploited.

“It’s the ugly side of the American economy that many people don’t realize,” said Shaw San Liu of the Chinese Progressive Association, “and oftentimes these workers don’t speak up cause they don’t have other options.”

These groups and the state’s labor department worked with Yank Sing for more than a year to  make corrections.

It resulted in a whopping $4.25 million settlement. Back pay and stolen wages that will go to 280 workers.

“I think we need to support employers who do that,  who step up to the plate,  and go , in this case, above and beyond what the law required,” said staff lawyer Winifred Kao of the Asian Law Caucus.

In fact, Yank Sing agreed to pay employees  above minimum wage, and they’ll get holiday and vacation pay as well.

There are now also mandated rest breaks and family leaves. Another major benefit they won is full health coverage with no deductibles.

And finally, management accused of making the serious mistakes have been dismissed.

“We’ve lost a lot of our management staff,  and we’ve done a significant amount of training with the ones that remain,” said Glick.

The state labor commissioner says this settlement is all the more remarkable because  low paid workers had the courage to speak up.

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