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New Living Wage NYC Campaign Launched

By Summer Brennan

At a press conference held on the steps of City Hall today May 25th, workers, community groups, and elected officials met to launch the Living Wage NYC campaign, spearheaded by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), and City Council Members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma.

The campaign, which aims to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, advocates for New York City subsidies for economic development to create living wage jobs. According to the campaign, the bill will guarantee that when the city gives businesses public subsidies, the jobs they create will pay at least a living wage. The purpose of the new law is to ensure that New York's economy recovers through an investment in rebuilding the middle class jobs needed to thrive in the 21st Century.

Special Election

Ms. Melissa Pena, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, Senator Jose PeraltaMelissa Pena from Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW celebrates with Jose Peralta as he wins a senatorial seat March 16, 2010. The overwhelmingly Democratic 13th State Senate District showed Mr. Peralta with 66 percent of the vote. As Senator, Peralta will now represent parts of Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona. Besides supporting candidates running for office, Local 338 political action team works closely with legislators at every level to ensure that important issues to members are addressed. The reception at Grand Rancho Jubilee in East Elmhurst for Senator Elect Peralta was packed with union officials.

 

Cuomo a Friend to Labor

By: Bendix Anderson  

On February 23, New York City police officers arrested millionaire David Cohen, owner of the Mystique Boutique retail chain, in Manhattan. The crime? Cohen allegedly paid workers less than minimum wage, failed to pay overtime, and even threatened and attempted to bribe witnesses to keep them from talking to investigators.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo ordered the arrest. “When you arrest a guy, you get his attention,” says Cuomo. “Enforce the law and people will follow the law.”  Cuomo has a long history of fighting for the rights of workers like the employees at Mystique. 

Protests, Lawsuits Hit SoHo Retailers

 Protests, Lawsuits Hit SoHo Retailers

By Bendix Anderson

Carolina Ferreria worked more than 60 hours a week at the Amsterdam Boutique on Broadway in SoHo. She earned $8.50 an hour and never earned a penny of the overtime pay she is entitled to under the law. 

“I had no idea about the law – I had no idea about overtime,” she said. “When I started getting an attitude about it, that’s when they fired me.”
 
Ferreria is just one of roughly 200 workers and labor activists who marched up Broadway to protest stolen wages and unpaid overtime February 3. The March of Hearts, organized by the Retail Action Project, stopped in front of stores owned by three chains being sued or investigated for illegal labor practices – from charging workers illegal fines to failure to pay overtime. 
 
“You can’t exploit retail workers in New York City and expect no one to do anything,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. The Retail Action Project is a partnership between the Union and a community nonprofit, the Good Old Lower East Side.
 
The Retail Action Project helped workers fight for their rights by referring them to labor attorneys and state officials. At Shoe Mania, nearly 150 workers are suing the company for more than $3 million in unpaid wages. New York’s Attorney General is investigating Mystique and its sister stores, Amsterdam, Exstaza, and Madness, for what workers claim are nearly $2 million in unpaid wages. Workers are also suing Scoop NYC for hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Local 338 RWDSU Walks to Fight Cancer

Local 338 Walks to Fight Cancer

Local 338 members along with 10,000 participants walked along Queens Boulevard to fight cancer on Sunday October 18, 2009. Almost $1,000,000 was expected to be collected at this 16th annual Queens event. Similar walks were scheduled across the country. The Queens walk began at 11 a.m. in front of Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens and participants walked along Queens Blvd. to Junction Blvd.

In 2008, nearly 600,000 walkers across the country joined the American Cancer Society in a united fight against breast cancer raising over $60 million. That year in New York and New Jersey, walkers at 28 events raisedmore than $18 million.

 

 

 

Local 338 banner on display at the marchAlmost 1,400 women in Queens are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.And every year, more than 300 women in the borough lose their battle against the disease. Making Strides is a time to share in the goal to end a disease that threatens the lives of so many people.

 

 

Last Stand at Stella?

Stella Doro Press Conference

As politicians and labor leaders were falling over each other at a City Hall news conference to say how much they were in solidarity with Stella D’oro workers in the Bronx – and how they would “stand by” them – managers on 237th Street were shutting the plant down and putting 155 people out of work. Mike Filippou, a lead mechanic at the plant for 14 years and Local 50’s chief shop steward at the plant, described what happened when he got back up to the Bronx after the news conference ended.

“When the 3pm shift left the plant, the managers wouldn’t let in the workers who had come to work the next shift,” he said. “They said, ‘you’re not working today.’ They surprised us today,” he continued. “They didn’t let anyone in to work, just a few people to pick up things from their lockers.”

 

 

 

Local 50 President Joyce Alston“People started screaming, ‘we’re workers, united and we’ll never be defeated,” he said. “There was crying. It was so bad. It was a very emotional day today.” The shift that was turned back at the door included about 50 workers, most of them women, most immigrants – but in contrast to many in New York, these immigrant workers had held their jobs for decades and were making upwards of $18 an hour. No more.

Filippou got the call that something was afoot at the plant in the middle of the news conference, he said. He headed back uptown with Local 50 President Joyce Alston, who, standing outside the gated plant, who had harsh words for Brynwood Partners, the hedge fund that bought the company two years ago and brought on the longest strike in company history. “In over 30 years of negotiating contracts, these are the most arrogant and egotistical people I’ve ever dealt with,” she said.

 


Mike Filippou

What’s next? A rally has been called at the plant for Friday, October 9th from 3pm to 7pm. Filippou and members of the Stella D’oro workers solidarity committee say that machinery purchased by Brynwood to upgrade the plant was bought courtesy of New York City taxpayer funding, as part of a deal to keep jobs in the Bronx. Now that the company has broken the deal, they say, the machinery shouldn’t be allowed to follow the new company’s owners to Ohio. They want the equipment impounded. Saying the same thing was local Assemblyman Jose Rivera, who put out a press release today calling Brynwood a “vulture equity company,” and saying he demands that Mayor Bloomberg have the machinery seized. Whether this will add up to enough to help the workers is an open question. Filippou, ever the optimist, declares, “I say it’s not over yet.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

outside the plant at 5pm

WalMart Fined for Death

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Walmart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management following the November 28, 2008, death of an employee at its Valley Stream, New York, store.

The worker died of asphyxiation after he was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers who surged into the store for its annual “Blitz Friday” pre-holiday sales event.

OSHA’s inspection found that the store’s employees were exposed to being crushed by the crowd due to the store’s failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management principles.

This failure includes providing employees with the necessary training and tools to safely manage the large crowd of shoppers.

OSHA issued Walmart one serious citation under its general duty clause for exposing workers to the recognized hazard of being crushed by the crowd.

The citation carries a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum penalty amount for a serious violation allowed under the law. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

“Effective planning and crowd management could have prevented this incident and its grave consequences,” says Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “Walmart must now take steps to ensure that a situation such as this one never happens again.”

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