Shoemania is a footwear retailer with four stores in Manhattan. The chain is known for offering huge discounts on shoes, boots, sandals, and bags. Shoe Mania is owned by Mark Cohen.
Workers at the footwear retailer Shoemania 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. In winter 2009, workers from Shoemania came to RAP seeking help. They told stories of working 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, without any overtime pay. Others complained of commission rates so low their hourly pay would fall below minimum wage. With RAP’s support, workers organized to take legal action against the Company to recover their lost wages. In all, 150 current and former Shoemania employees opted-in to two class-action lawsuits filed in US Federal Court.
“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 Shoemania. “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.”
The recently approved settlement includes a payment of over $1.15 million to recover the workers’ stolen minimum wage and overtime. They also won the power to organize a Union and negotiate to improve wages and working conditions in all the stores. Shoe Mania workers worked with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to negotiate a contract with the Company that improved, working conditions and job protections.
“The freedom to join a Union is the most important part of the settlement to us,” said Prince Yarngo, a worker at the Union Square Shoemania. “It feels good to have corrected the injustice. Now Shoe Mania must grant us the dignity and respect that we wanted all along.”