BOSTON/Chinatown - Sunshine Travel Services bus drivers took to the streets of Chinatown again on Monday to get the word out about poor labor and safety conditions they have endured on the job. This after Sunshine brought a lawsuit against the Chinese Progressive Association - the community organization that has been assisting the workers - charging the non-profit with defamation. The company also tried to get an injunction to attempt to stop the drivers from publicizing their grievances. The judge in the case issued an injunction that forced CPA to remove the Sunshine corporate logo from the leaflets they have been distributing with the drivers, but the 1st Amendment prevented any order that might stop CPA from leafleting Sunshine or engaging in any other activities that are considered protected speech.
The latest leaflet - taken readily from the drivers and advocates by Chinatown residents and workers - mentioned the ongoing harassment the workers and CPA have been experiencing from other Sunshine employees and Sunshine lawyer Chris Coleman's paralegal.
Sandy Fong, the paralegal in question, was pointed out to Open Media Boston by CPA staff on the scene and observed taking pictures of the workers and advocates on her cell phone [see accompanying photos below].
After reporters had left the scene, Sunshine supporters got more aggressive, according to CPA's Amee Chew, "While we were leafleting in Chinatown at Harrison and Beach St., Sunshine Travel called the police to ask them to stop us from passing out flyers. Sandy Fong, a paralegal at the law office of Chris Coleman, which represents Sunshine, and Sue Chen, a manager at Sunshine Travel and Coach America buses, approached us with two officers. They told the officers we were leafleting illegally in violation of the court injunction, which they said barred us from this activity and from using the words "Sunshine Travel" on any flyer.
"We explained what we were doing, and that the injunction simply read we couldn't use the company's registered trademark logo; we showed the officers a copy of the court ruling. The police filed a report, but said they could not intervene since leafleting was a first amendment right, and anyway the injunction is a civil, not criminal matter. Ms. Fong and Ms. Chen then took cell phone photos of the workers and supporters before leaving."
Despite the pressure, Sunshine drivers are continuing their campaign for better wages and working conditions.
Driver Wen Wei Zhou explained that he and his colleagues decided to fight their employer, "because we face a lot of unfair, unjust conditions," but was matter-of-fact about the situation. "I hope the conditions at Sunshine can be changed for the better. And bus safety needs to be changed. If they could change all the bad practices I would go back. In this bad economy I don't want to not have a job."
The Sunshine drivers have maintained that they routinely worked 12-18 hours a day for a flat $100 a day. They say that they drove 10 hours a day in violation of Department of Transportation health and safety standards, and were forced to keep false log books that misreported their hours. They claim they were also forced to pay for damages to company buses regardless of fault and that the maintained three different business names to avoid paying them overtime. They began protesting the company after Sunshine owner Lorraine Tse cut their wages to $95 a day in March.
Sunshine Travel Services did not respond to a request for comment by Open Media Boston.
For more background, please see the 4/16/09 Open Media Boston article "Sunshine Travel Services Bus Drivers Demand Workplace Justice at Chinatown Press Conference."
Photos of Sandy Fong Taking Pictures of Sunshine Bus Drivers and Chinese Progressive Association Staff on Her Cell Phone