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 casesthat 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.
It’s been 4 months since SeaSol and former Royal India workers delivered their demand letter to get their unpaid wages, and Royal India STILL hasn’t paid them. But what’s been happening since then? Here’s a summary:
SeaSol and workers have been picketing steadily with plenty of energy to keep up the fight! Community members in Kirkland have shown overwhelming support, and many have their own stories to tell about bad experiences at Royal India.
At every picket, more workers come forward. There is now a list of over 20 workers who have not been paid by the thieving Bhatti bosses, who try to scare them away. The stories are all the same: the workers’ weeks or months of hard work is met with no money, bounced checks, “come back tomorrow, come back next week” excuses, and/or threats and intimidation.
Instead of paying their workers, the Royal India bosses have spent their money and time on having a lawyer write a bogus cease-and-desist letter (protesting is protected by the First Amendment) and very poorly-made counter picket signs. The Bhatti family appeared to rope in many different family members and spouses. They and their managers write phony reviews online pretending to be “very satisfied customers” or “happy workers” from Royal India.
There are some exciting developments behind the scenes – stay tuned for more information soon!
The owners of Royal India have a long history of being sued in Washington State, but not all of the cases against them are about stealing wages from workers and citations by Labor and Industries. Some cases are about the horrendously unsanitary conditions in their kitchen and restaurant.
The landlord of the strip mall in which Royal India resides sued them to retake the property after Royal India harbored a massive rat infestation (King County court case 19-2-08019-1 SEA).
Photos from the lawsuit show dead rats, rat feces throughout the restaurant, raw meat left out, and food left out on the floor…
Tens of thousands of dollars in repair were needed to address the rats (individual checks listed on the case total $23,075 in rat damage!) including rats from Royal India invading other tenants at the strip mall…
The Bhatti family did not pay their rent or the rat damage, and has caused problems in the Juanita Square stripmall for many years.
In addition to causing thousands in damage with their unsanitary food handling and kitchen maintenance practices, court documents mention thousands of dollars of unpaid rent by Royal India to their landlord. Aeisha and Mohammad Bhatti’s refusal to pay what they owe seems to be a pattern of behavior for them–their landlord, along with their workers and other business associates, have a terrible time getting these thieving bosses to pay what they owe.
Workers we have spoken with confirmed the disgusting conditions in the Royal India restaurants, mentioning additional food safety problems such as one of the bosses taking food off a customer’s half-eaten plate with his fingers and adding it to another customer’s about-to-be-served meal. Former workers’ primary concern is getting their hard-earned wages paid. Unsanitary conditions, on top of abusive labor practices, provide customers with all the more reason to boycott Royal India.
Are you a current or former worker at Royal India? Still not paid for your work? Get in touch!