RAP has helped workers organize for legal rights at work and helped thousands of retail workers win back millions in unpaid wages. We help retail workers to address systemic problems on the job through legal action and collective action.
Wage Theft is the illegal underpayment or non-payment of workers’ wages. Wage Theft includes violations of minimum wage laws; not paying time and a half overtime pay; forcing workers to work off the clock; workers not receiving their final paychecks; misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime (as well as employers’ share of FICA tax); and not paying workers at all.
Workers are fighting to recover $1.5 million in unpaid minimum wage and overtime. Over 150 current and former employees claim they have been subject to many labor violations in at least the past six years. RAP is working with current and former Mystique employees to utilize legal, organizing, and media tools to win back the money they are owed.
Workers at the footwear retailer Shoe Mania won an historic victory together with RAP in a massive legal settlement of $1.15 million that followed public demonstrations, class-action lawsuits, and workers organizing.
“At first, people were afraid. Managers spread rumors that we would be fired if we joined the case or that we would never receive our unpaid wages,” said Louis Bangoura, formerly of the Bleecker Street Shoe Mania. “But RAP told us aboutour legal rights and eventually, the workers began to realize if we all joined together, we would have the power to win.”
Stock and security workers regularly worked 50 to 60 hours a week but did not receive overtime pay. Some 15 workers were then fired when they complained about these violations. “Our break room was a boiler room in the basement. This is where we had to eat our lunch, change our clothes and even sleep,” said Romeo Ilboudou, who worked the job for five years.
In late 2008, Scoop NYC workers called RAP because they felt discriminated against after the company allegedly refused to accept their legal work authorization and fired them. With the help of RAP, 17 workers filed two complaints against Scoop NYC, one seeking paid overtime and the second, which was filed at the U.S. Department of Justice, for discrimination based on national origin. The settlement with the company covers both cases.
Yellow Rat Bastard
In December 2007, nearly 1,000 current and former workers of the Yellow Rat Bastard retail chain won $1.4 million in unpaid wages through a lawsuit with the NYS Attorney General’s office and RAP’s grassroots campaign. Before this campaign, YRB workers worked for as low as $5.25/hr, well below the 2006 minimum wage of $6.75, received no overtime pay of time and a half, even though many worked 70 hrs/wk, experienced rampant verbal abuse by managers and worked in an unhealthy work environment, including the rat infested flagship store.