We Demand a Real Minimum Wage for All Workers
Not Second-Class Treatment, Not Corporate Welfare!
The New York State bill is a sham. It will enrich employers and corporations to the detriment of all working people. New Yorkers deserve a real wage raise, one that improves conditions for all workers.
- The bill is too little, too late: Raising the minimum wage to only $9 over 3 years is not enough for anyone to survive on. New York’s minimum wage would be over $10.70 if it had kept up with the cost of living since 1970.
- The bill is discriminatory against tipped workers: This bill does not include a provision to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers. It directs that decision to a Wage Board. This excludes the hundreds of thousands of tipped workers who are predominately women and people of color. Due to increases in the cost of living, going without a raise in reality means a pay cut. Separate is never equal.
- The bill subsidizes Corporations to hire young workers, encouraging them to replace those who are currently employed. Businesses will receive a refundable tax credit for hiring youth aged 16-19. This encourages businesses to lower the wages of especially older workers or replace them with teenagers. It is projected to cost the public hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
- Furthermore, the bill does not hold corporations such as Dominos Pizza, McDonalds, etc. accountable and does not put resources into enforcing the labor law. Many workers receive less than minimum wage and work long hours without overtime pay, but when they come forward, it often takes years for the Labor Department to investigate the cases. This lack of enforcement encourages employers and corporations to violate the labor law.
This bill is harmful to all working people. Hold Gov. Cuomo accountable!
1. The minimum wage should be increased to be at least $10/hr, indexed to inflation.
2. Tipped workers should not be treated as second-class citizen. Tipped workers should receive a minimum-wage increase along with all other workers.
3. Put resources into enforcement and strengthen the labor law, instead of giving millions to corporations in subsidies to hire youth to replace workers currently employed.
FIGHT FOR OUR FUTURE
IN THE LOWER EAST SIDE AND CHINATOWN
100% Low-Income Housing On SPURA Now!
There is a new development that will be built on the public land of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. Who do you think it should be built for? For the rich? Or for you and me?
Everyday, we see new condos for the rich or hotels for the tourists being built. Our rents are skyrocketing. Our local shops are being forced to close. We have to pay more for goods and services. There is nothing for us working families who have built and held this community together, especially after 9/11. The City is trying to force us out of our neighborhood!
In the past few years, the Chinatown and the Lower East Side community has risen up, speaking out against gentrification. Nearly 10,000 people have signed petitions calling for 100% low income housing on SPURA. In response, a community-oriented developer has committed to build 100% low income housing on SPURA, prioritize jobs on the site for the local community, and say no to big box stores to support local businesses. Now, we have a chance to have something built for working people and families here. We must continue to organize so the City does its part and chooses a developer that will build what we need.
100% low income housing on SPURA is good not only for low income families. It is good for low- and middle-income families and small businesses in this community who want their rents, as well as goods and services to be affordable.
Let's make sure that SPURA will be built for working people-whether we're employed, retired, disabled, or working as mothers and grandmothers! Come to the townhall meeting and support the developer who has pledged to build 100% low-income housing. If you do support, mobilize your friends and families to attend the Town Hall Meeting on December 1.
TOWN HALL MEETING
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2012, 2:30 P.M.
Public School 1 (P.S. 1) 8 Henry St. (between Catherine & Oliver)
Our new center is officially open as a home to all workers!
This is a critical moment when working people and their families in Lower Manhattan most need a place to come together and address the disparities in health, workplace and living conditions in the community. We hope you can join us in the months and years to come to take part in developing recreational and cultural activities, and building the new Workers' Learning Center, as we move forward and keep fighting for improvements in our lives. Throughout the years, CSWA has used many different tools to draw out and build workers’ collective leadership in many areas, in the workplace and in the community. We used unionization, social service, street action, litigation, advocacy, and even recreation to organize more workers.
In our community, we the workers have become an agent of change, leading the community to fight against sweatshops, and for better working conditions and a better place to live. After all this we are proud to say that working conditions here in Chinatown have improved a lot, and that we have changed certain misconceptions. It used to be a widespread belief that Chinese people are “happy slaves,” or happy to live in dilapidated, cramped apartments in high-rise buildings, but not any more. We have gained more confidence in ourselves, so that when crisis strikes, we are able to come together, and have a fighting chance.
Most of the time, there was not enough space. At least 20 years were spent in a small and windowless room. But now we finally have the opportunity to develop a truly multifaceted organization. With your help and participation, we hope to run educational and cultural programs in our new center, for workers to build skills and practice cultural enrichment. In order to continue our work, we will need to constantly learn and adapt. We look forward to working with all of you to accomplish these goals. We invite you to help make this center a place where we can come together, learn from one another and build new possibilities. As one CSWA board member said, "This center is possible because of the participation of our members and the collaboration of our partners and friends. There is no way that this space could have become a reality without the hours of volunteer work, the donation of equipment, furniture, funds, resources, and time. It's obvious that the labor put into this space has been and will be a labor of the heart." We are especially thankful to the Mertz Gilmore Foundation for loaning us the funds to secure this space. Over the next 2 months we are aiming to raise $100,000 towards repaying the loan on this center. Even if you were not able to make it to the Open House last week, you can make a tax-deductible donation.
CSWA Open House
345 Grand Street
between Essex and Ludlow Streets in Manhattan
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 / 5:30-8pm
F train to Delancey/Essex Street or B/D to Grand Street
We are excited to open the doors to a new home for worker organizing. The larger, permanent space will serve as a vibrant community space for working families, and will help our rapidly expanding organizing programs. This space will also be home to a Workers’ Organizing Learning Center that will hold classes and learning groups for workers interested in going beyond knowing our rights and the law, and learning to organize.
Ex-workers who say Kearny "sweatshop" fired them for trying to unionize call for boycott of all Reynolds products
Published: Friday, June 15, 2012, 3:02 AM
KEARNY Former workers of Pactiv Corp., a plastic packaging factory on O’Brien Street, protested yesterday what they called “sweatshop” conditions at the factory.
The roughly 20 former employees were joined by about 80 supporters.
They said they were laid off last July after they launched a union organizing campaign among their co-workers in response to conditions that included 12-hour work days, no sick days, and no time to go to the bathroom.
Wan Zhen Huang, 48, of Manhattan, a former packer at the plant and the mother of two young boys, said through a translator that before she was laid off she was working seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and was told if she couldn’t do it she wouldn’t have a job.
“I didn’t have time to take care of the kids,” she said.
Jenny Reyes, another former worker, said yesterday she wants to return to her job, but under “better working conditions.”
“We want to be treated as human,” Reyes said through a translator. “We want the right to return to work because we were unjustly fired.”
The mostly female workers are part of the “Ain’t I a Woman Campaign!?,” an organizing effort being spearheaded by the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops and the Chinese Staff and Workers Association.
Pactiv Corp., which produces various plastic goods, including cups, cutlery and containers, is a subsidiary of Reynolds Group Holdings, the maker of Reynolds Wrap foil.
Yesterday, the protesters called for a boycott of Reynolds Group products, which they said are produced in 40 factories in North America and Europe.
Officials with the Reynolds Group couldn’t be reached yesterday, but a spokeswoman for Lake Forest, Ill.- based Pactiv Corp. said the company values its employees and obeys all health and safety regulations.
“At Pactiv we have a strong commitment and history of valuing and respecting employees and we operate our facilities in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations,” said Tori Berndt, the spokeswoman. “We strive to maintain a safe and healthful environment for all our employees.”
Berndt declined to respond to claims of the former workers that some 41 of the Kearny factory’s 70 employees were fired last year due to their union organizing activities.
The former workers declined to say how much they were paid and made no allegations of nonpayment for the overtime hours they did work.
Join the Ain't I a Woman?! Campaign
Hundreds of Women Workers & Their Families Launch Nat’l Boycott of Pactiv Corp/Reynolds Group Holdings
On June 14, hundreds of Pactiv workers and their families will be joined by scores of other workers from different industries to hold a rally at the Kearny New Jersey factory. They will launch a nation-wide campaign to demand their jobs back and end mandatory overtime. The workers, their friends, and their families will rally to expose the sweatshop conditions promoted by Reynolds Group Holdings.
Together, Pactiv workers will call on all workers in the US to boycott all Reynolds products, until the company complies with their demands:
1. The right to take bathroom breaks.
2. The right to sick days and parental leave.
3. The right to speak out and organize without retaliation.
4. Reinstatement with back pay for those laid-off or fired.
5. The right to a 40-hour work week and NO mandatory overtime.
For more information, contact CSWA (ask for Sarah) at (212) 334-2333.
Victory for Babi Nail Salon Workers!
"Saying Court Win Helps, Nail Salon Workers Rally"
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
De Ping Song, with paper, appeared before reporters Tuesday. He was a plaintiff in a suit against the owners of Babi Nails salons.
By SARAH MASLIN NIR
Published: April 10, 2012
For legions of New York’s glossiest women, for whom a trip to the nail salon is a weekly must, “square shape or round?” is often the most they will ever hear from their manicurist.
But six long-suffering nail lacquerers were rewarded when they raised their voices against the owners of a chain of Long Island nail salons, saying they were paid below minimum wage and forced to toil in an abusive environment. Ignored by their bosses, who they said sometimes went so far as to kick the stools on which they sat as they sloughed off calluses and buffed toes, they took their complaints to federal court. And last month, the workers — all Chinese immigrants — were awarded nearly $250,000 after a weeklong jury trial.
The victory coincides with a push to organize by salon workers across the city, a group largely made up of thousands of immigrants from China, Korea, Nepal and countries in South America, who work long hours painting nails Ballet Slipper pink or Jelly Apple red. Advocates said the movement suggested that this historically docile labor force was growing more assertive.
“Organizing within the nail salon industry has been very difficult,” said Sarah Ahn, an organizer with a coalition of service workers advocacy groups — they call their campaign “Justice Will Be Served!” — that fought for the salon employees. “Victories show there is a way that if you come forward, you can fight and win.”
De Ping Song, one of the workers, said he expected more of his peers to join in. “We all are facing the same conditions,” he said through a translator at a news conference on Tuesday. “Because all the workers have had enough of these sweatshop conditions, I believe workers will stand up with us to fight for everybody.”
At the three Babi Nails salons in the suit, which are in Greenvale, Glen Head and Carle Place, workers answering the phone on Tuesday said the owners could not be located.
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Central Islip in December 2009, claimed that the workers were paid far less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Work weeks of more than 40 hours were standard, the workers said, but they were never paid overtime as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York labor law.
For the past year, the workers — four of whom were fired shortly after filing the suit — picketed the salons weekly, joined by other workers who rallied to their cause. Aaron Halegua, a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society who represented the workers in court, said three of the four fired workers were reinstated through a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board after the workers claimed the dismissals were in retaliation.
The verdict was delivered on March 22 after a trial before Judge Leonard D. Wexler. The jury found the workers were owed a total of about $160,000 in unpaid wages and about $80,000 in overtime. The jury did not find the workers’ claims of abuse and discrimination by the owners, who are Korean, to be substantiated.
Advocates for the workers in the lawsuit said that though the fear of losing jobs had silenced some workers, they were hoping the verdict in the Long Island case, as well as past successes, like in 2009 when workers rallied against Simply Nails, an Upper West Side salon, would embolden others seeking higher pay or better working conditions.
“I think more and more we see groups of employees” fighting back, said Wing Lam, the executive director of the Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, where the salon employees first sought help several years ago.
“In the past, they probably quit the jobs,” he said, “not because people don’t want to fight, but they see the law as weak.”
The Ain't I A Woman?! Campaign
Workers Arrested in Retaliation for Asserting Their Labor Rights: Community Calls for Immediate Investigation
On January 23, 2012, federal agents arrested three Chinese immigrant workers who worked as livery drivers for Yes Car Service and owner Tony Luo. This is the latest in repeated acts of retaliation against drivers who have protested the company’s illegal practices.
Yes Car Service operates around 80 limousines and 100 commuter vans that transport passengers through out New York City. For over ten years, drivers worked up to 16 hours per day without any wages and were forced to pay the company weekly fees to work. Owner Tony Luo collected all cash from the drivers and did not report to the government. When drivers protested the fees, Luo retaliated against them with threats, harassment, firing, and even gang violence.1
In 2010, twenty drivers filed a complaint with the NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL). Significantly, the NYSDOL determined that Yes Car drivers were in fact company employees, awarding unemployment insurance (UI) to one of the drivers and requiring that Luo hand in payroll records of all employees, which he had never submitted to the federal or state government.2
Luo appealed the decision and since then, federal government agents have launched a campaign of harassment by repeatedly going to homes of drivers who testified during the UI hearings and threatening them with arrest and deportation if they didn’t give false statements and recant their previous testimonies in court. The drivers refused to lie under oath and continued to assert their rights under the law. One week ago they were arrested.
Says Justice Will Be Served! Campaign representative, Tracy Kwon: “The government should go after the real criminals, like Tony Luo who breaks the law and cheats the government of millions in taxes. Why are they busting workers, who struggle to survive and are simply standing up for their rights? This is unacceptable! As long as these corrupt agents are free to intimidate workers to protect the boss, other workers will be afraid to come forward. This is turning our community into a lawless land.”
Last year, many community organizations and legal advocacy groups sent a letter in support of the drivers to call on the US Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate and put a stop to this wrongdoing. There was no response. Meanwhile, several other drivers of Yes Car Service have been harassed and even arrested for complaining. We also encourage all workers who have been harassed or retaliated against to come forward, acquire support, and join the campaign’s fight for justice.
We as a community demand the release of workers being held unjustly as well as a meeting with the office of US Attorney General Eric Holder, to ask him to immediately investigate and prosecute federal agents for their wrongdoing. The community will hold a demonstration on March 1, 2012 to call for justice.
1 Brendan Brosh, NY Daily News, “Drivers Blast Hell on Wheels,” September 22, 2009.
2 This determination as “company employee” requires the employer to be responsible for minimum wage and overtime pay, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance, as well as payroll taxes.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Juan Gonzalez
Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 2:34 AM
... Last year, a state unemployment insurance hearing officer reached a major decision in favor of whistlebower Hong Xian Liu — one that could cost the Yes Car Service millions of dollars. Owner Luo had challenged his former driver’s application for unemployment benefits, claiming Liu was an “independent contractor.” But Liu brought the other two men as witnesses. They testified that they were required to work set shifts for seven days a week, and that the company controlled everything they did. They even produced an employee manual in Chinese, with English translation. The manual spells out in detail all the duties of drivers. The company’s defense was that the manual is fraudulent. The hearing officer immediately declared in the driver’s favor. The same ruling, of course, would apply to Luo’s 200 drivers. So would their right to back overtime and to years of payroll tax deductions. Hong Xian Liu and Bi Sheng Liu both claim in sworn statements that they were picked up by federal agents last year. They say agents pressured them to say the association’s staff coached them to lie and fabricated the manual, but they refused to do so. Bi Sheng Liu says agents picked him up in Kansas City, where he was living last year, and forced him to record a telephone call with the third driver, Lin Guo, in an effort to collect evidence that the three conspired to lie. He claims he was threatened with deportation unless he cooperated...
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