December 9, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – ’Tis the season to be jolly, but New York City’s candy queen Dylan Lauren isn’t being very sweet to employees who can’t log enough hours to make a living at her flagship store on the Upper East Side – in fact, she’s spending the holidays just ignoring them.
No one at Dylan’s Candy Bar would talk to LaborPress about this story, but workers at the immensely popular shop located at 1011 Third Avenue have been trying for months to get the multibillionaire entrepreneur and daughter of superstar fashion designer Ralph Lauren to listen to their concerns. They’ve appealed to managers, amassed a petition and held a rally outside the shop – all to no avail.
“No one has had chance to speak to her directly, and all of us who have tried to go through management have been told, pointblank, that they would not pass our message on to her,” said Phil Arnone, a sales associate who’s worked at Dylan’s Candy Bar for the last year.
A few weeks ago, another Dylan’s Candy Bar sales associate named David Oscos, traveled all the way to Darien, Connecticut where his boss was doing a book signing at a popular clothing shop on Boston Post Road. Oscos hoped to grab the opportunity to talk directly to Lauren and let her know that he and his co-workers simply can’t make it on the low wages and part-time hours she’s offering employees.
However, Oscos never got the chance because as soon as he attempted to speak to Lauren, a bunch of flunkies immediately surrounded the befuddled employee, and swiftly hustled him outside the shop.
Struggling Dylan’s Candy Bar workers were back demonstrating outside the flagship store last Friday where Arnone said his holiday work schedule has been slashed 10 to 12 hours over last year.
“At the same time, they’ve also hired more people,” Arnone said. “If they needed more people, then they had more hours to give out.”
Like many of his co-workers, the recently married Arnone has been forced to pick up a second job in an effort to try and make ends meet.
Dylan’s Candy Bar, meanwhile, reportedly rakes in $25 million in annual sales. The shop has expanded to locations in East Hampton, Los Angeles and Miami Beach since debuting in 2001, and has been featured in films and TV shows, as well as becoming a hot spot for tourists on big city bus tours.
“[Dylan Lauren] is worth $4.6 billion,” said Stephanie Basile, an organizer with the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union [RWDSU]. “She doesn’t have the same recognition as someone like Oprah [Winfrey] – but she actually has more money than she does.”
The RWDSU has partnered with workers at Dylan’s Candy Bar in the hopes of bringing Lauren to the bargaining table.
They vow to continue trying to personally engage Lauren at other appearances, in addition to holding weekly rallies outside the flagship store.
“Some people are afraid to step up because they are afraid they might face retaliation,” Arnone said. “People have kids, so, they’re afraid that any cut in hours will take food out of their children’s mouths.”
Despite those fears, however, Arnone maintains that there is strong support for workers trying to affect change at Dylan’s Candy Bar.
“There’s nobody who thinks it would be a bad idea to have rights on the job,” said Arnone. The Dylan’s Candy Bar “Be Sweet To Your Workers” petition can be found here.