On April 30, 2012, Jei Fong, representative of the Justice Will Be Served! Campaign spoke on Building Bridges, a program of WBAI Pacifica. Jei’s segment begins at (50:00 – 57:28)
Click here to download the April 30, 2012 show & listen in!
Justice Will Be Served! workers’ rally at 26 Federal Plaza on May 1 2012. Adolfo Lopez and Carmen Andrade speak.
Univision Channel 41 coverage: (WATCH from 1:38 to 2:25)
For immediate release: May 1, 2012
Time: Tuesday, May 1, 12pm
Location: 26 Federal Plaza
Yes Car Workers Unite with American-born & Immigrant Workers to Demand President Obama: Stop the Attack on Workers
The Yes Car Service drivers filed complaints with the government for their employer’s illegal practices. But instead of putting Yes Car boss Tony Luo behind bars, the federal government attacked the workers by arresting them on false charges. As a result of protests and support from groups across the city, the government dropped the charges and released the workers. However, Obama’s administration refuses to criminally prosecute the federal agents and Tony Luo.
For over ten years, drivers worked 16 hours per day without receiving any wages and were forced to pay weekly fees to work. When drivers protested the fees, Luo retaliated against them with threats, harassment, firing, and even gang violence. In 2011, after twenty drivers filed a complaint with the NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL), the NYSDOL determined that Yes Car drivers were in fact company employees, awarding unemployment insurance to one of the drivers and requiring Luo hand in all employees’ payroll records never before submitted to the federal or state government. Luo appealed the decision and since then, federal agents have escalated a campaign of harassment against the workers, threatening them with jail time and deportation in order to force them to retract their complaints, and making repeated arrests of complainants. Twice, prosecutors dismissed criminal charges against the workers because of lack of evidence.
Yes Car is an example of the government’s active attack on workers in the interest of bosses and corporations. When the Yes Car workers came together, undocumented and documented, the government used workers’ immigration status to deny them of their rights. Justice Will Be Served! Campaign Representative Carlos Rodriguez: “How can the government lock up workers who expose criminal bosses? These arrests are not isolated incidents. The government protects sweatshop bosses by using the Employers Sanctions law to divide workers, pitting immigrants and native-born against each other and creating worse conditions for all. We encourage more workers to come forward and join us!”
At the demonstration American-born and immigrant workers are joined by Occupy Wall Street, labor activists and faith-based groups. They are presenting a letter demanding that the U.S. Attorney General:
1) Criminally prosecute the federal agents for their wrongdoing
2) Ensure the right for all workers to file complaints with the government
3) Ensure equal rights for all workers by eliminating the Employer Sanctions Provision
Today, May 1, 2012, hundreds of workers gathered to protest at the federal government headquarters in NYC.
Adolfo Lopez, Justice Will Be Served! Campaign Representative: “We succeeded to liberate the Yes Car workers, but we continue to demand that the US Attorney General Eric Holder ARREST AND PROSECUTE THE AGENTS. All workers should have the RIGHT TO FILE COMPLAINTS with the government – with out retaliation. Because if not, who will complain? What kind of society is this? We DEMAND EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL WORKERS. Eliminate Employer Sanctions Law, the law that the government uses to divide us… We will not stop today. When we go to work and home, we will continue organizing our co-workers, neighbors, and friends to join our fight. Only this way, we will improve our working conditions and our lives! Today, we present a letter to the Attorney General with our demands. We want a response now!”
“Equal Rights for All Workers = Repeal Employer Sanctions”. Sophie, member of the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS)
“Break the chains! Rompa las cadenas! No more slavery, Basta la esclavitud!”
“We support the rights of all workers to organize” – NMASS members Jaime and Simi
Wah Lee, member of Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association
De Ping Song, with paper, appeared before reporters Tuesday. He was a plaintiff in a suit against the owners of Babi Nails salons.
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.”