When we talk to people in the community about Royal India and its owners’ constant theft and abuse, many can’t believe they’d still be in business after doing all these things. Other folks we meet have an existing connection to Royal India and actually even more horror stories to share. There’s far more than we have time to write up, so we’ve got to prioritize!
This week’s horror story is special because it answers the first question: Could they really do this and get away with it?
Last Thursday (Aug 3) King County Public Health closed down Royal India at 3 PM because of an “imminent health hazard”. The bosses responded by ignoring the closure order and opening for dinner that same day. After calls from members of the community asking for additional followthrough, the health department showed up again on Friday and “reminded them” they were closed until further notice. That’s the courtesy bosses get. Unsurprising to our community, they continued to remain open and serving food all weekend.
The Bhattis have learned a lesson that we all should learn: Government is set up to shield business owners from accountability. This protection allows them to continue ripping ordinary people off without consequences, and they do. Even when workers or consumers manage to get laws passed that are supposed to protect them, the burden is on the victim to push and persuade the powerful (i.e., the government or bosses) to care, and any enforcement is often a joke.
Across the US, the amount of money lost to wage theft is greater than all robberies, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts combined. The majority of these stolen wages are never recovered by workers. [Source here.] When ordinary people fall behind on bills, we are constantly harassed by collection agencies. People (particularly BIPOC) are arrested (or killed) for stealing very little, but when business owners steal from their workers, the government barely bothers.
That’s why Aeisha Bhatti has a string of unpaid wage theft judgments and lost court cases that her family simply ignores. That’s why the Bhattis can illegally evict workers after robbing them. And that’s also why SeaSol exists. We’re not willing to plead with the government, then sit around and wait for them to do nothing. We’re working-class people who have come together to hold bosses accountable and win justice in our community.