by Carolina Ferreyra
Mystique Boutique, Madness, Amsterdam & Exstaza. If you’ve ever been to SoHo, you’ve seen these stores. In fact, if you live in New York, you or your friends have probably shopped there. At first glance, you can tell it’s just another SoHo store, with wholesale merchandise and cheap prices. Well today, I’m joining workers at SoHo stores like Yellow Rat Bastard, Shoemania, and Scoop NYC who have organized to win wages that were stolen from us.
On Thursday, December 20, over 100 former co-workers of mine receive back wages through a $950,000 settlement obtained by the New York State Office of the Attorney General, which investigated our claims of non-payment of minimum wage and overtime. This settlement, which couldn’t have been possible without the help of the Retail Action Project and the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union, also includes independent monitoring for ongoing compliance with wage and hour laws in all stores. With my check, I’ll be able to visit my family in Argentina for the first time in years.
After two years of working 66-hour weeks for less than minimum wage, no overtime pay, with infrequent breaks spent in a rat infested basement – I helped bring my former boss David Cohen to justice! I worked in the basement of Canal and Broadway for only 2 years, but some of my co-workers had been there for over 10 years. That’s 10 years of overtime never being paid. You do the math. Watching my co-workers get tears in their eyes as they came to collect their checks at RAP made my holiday season, and our victory is a memory we all carry to inspire other workers to take action in their stores.
This was only at my store, imagine how much money is being stolen from honest, hard working people every year? If you suspect that your boss is breaking the law, get in touch! Come to RAP, and I’ll share what I’ve learned from this experience, because together we can organize and make change!