NEW YORK — On Wednesday, July 8, fired workers from Scoop NYC gathered outside the trendy retail store in SoHo to protest against numerous labor violations. Handing out free scoops of ice cream and chanting “Scoop Scoop is unfair, all we want is our fair share!” the workers announced a lawsuit against the company, alleging racial discrimination and numerous labor violations.
The rally was organized by the Retail Action Project (RAP) — a community-labor partnership of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) — and featured speakers from local political leaders to rank and file workers. Community, labor and religious groups also came to support the workers as well, including the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), the New York Labor-Religion Coalition, St. Marks Church, the Lower East Side Girl’s Club, the Jewish Labor Committee, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping, half a dozen RWDSU locals, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
“The company took advantage of hardworking immigrants,” said Madou Kone, a former Scoop NYC security supervisor. “I’ve never felt so discriminated against in my life.”
The workers, who hail primarily from West Africa, are filing suit with the U.S. Department of Justice for unlawful firings, document abuse and citizenship status discrimination. According to RAP, in October 2008 Scoop NYC initiated an internal I-9 audit of the immigrant workers’ papers. Seven of these workers presented authorization as soon as requested, but Scoop NYC fired them, alleging that they failed to produce proper documentation. These workers are asking for approximately $200,000 in lost wages since the time of their termination.
Additionally, workers charge Scoop NYC with multiple labor violations, including failure to pay overtime.
“For over six years, nearly every single stock and security worker would work over 60 hours per week and never receive a single penny in overtime pay,” said RAP organizer Pete Montalbano. Fifteen of these workers are accusing Scoop NYC management of neglecting to pay overtime and other benefits by deceptive measures by wrongfully attempting to misclassify these workers as managerial, thereby exempt from receiving overtime pay, as stipulated in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). These workers are asking for approximately $300,000 in back wages.
In addition to the discrimination and wage violations, workers also cite hazardous conditions in the store.
“Our break room was a boiler room in the basement,” said Kone. “This is where we had to eat our lunch, change our clothes and even sleep.” According to RAP, the break room had poor ventilation, electrical hazards such as exposed wires on the walls and ceilings, and frequent leaks and flooding of raw sewage from bathrooms and drainage systems.
“You can’t hide these workers in the basement any longer,” said Montalbano. “You need to make amends for what you’ve done, and we’re not going away until you do!”
For more information, visit http://www.retailactionproject.org.