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Bushwick Battles Back

Erin Thompson May 12, 2006

Tapping into the power of direct action, community boycotts and grassroots organizing, Make the Road By Walking’s workplace justice campaigns have escalated since 2003 from fighting for the enforcement of minimal labor standards to full-scale efforts to unionize previously exploitative businesses.

MINIMAX – MARCH 2004

Eight workers win $65,000 in back wages. The workers had endured verbal abuse, wage and overtime violations and some claimed they were unfairly terminated.

S AND S FARM – MARCH 2005

Greengrocer employees working 70 hour weeks for 300 and 340 dollars a week, win $28,852 in back wages. The workers now receive overtime and minimum wage, allowing them to work 24 fewer hours a week for the same amount of money.

SUPER STAR 99 INC.; LESS & PLUS DISCOUNT INC.; JIMMY 99 CENTS INC. – AUGUST 2005

Employees of the three stores win $70,000 in back wages. Workers now receive minimum wage and overtime pay, and are given three paid sick days and three vacation days per year.

FOOTCO USA – JANUARY 2006

Ninety-five workers win $410,000 in back wages for overtime and minimum wage violations and all 10 stores in the city are successfully unionized. The new contract was signed in January 2006 – workers now receive $7.25 an hour, vacation and sick days, health insurance and an employee discount, as well as guaranteed five hours a week of overtime.

K. BREAD & CO — IWW WINS UNION ELECTION APRIL 7

Fourteen workers at this Midtown bakery successfully organize a union, and are now being paid minimum wage and overtime, and are waiting to negotiate a contract with benefits, that include paid holidays, sick days and vacations.

EZ SUPPLY CO. – IWW WINS UNION ELECTION FEBRUARY 9

At this wholesale restaurant supply and food company, 23 workers decide to unionize after approaching Make the Road with complaints of wage minimum violations and a lack of respect for the workers. The workers held two strikes during the unionizing effort and are now in contract negotiations.

AMERSINO MARKETING GROUP, LLC – IWW HOLDS UNION ELECTIONS APRIL 28

Workers at this wholesale food supply company begin unionizing in February 2006, claiming wage and overtime violations against the owner, who had been paying workers as little as $300 for 60- hour weeks. Since the union made a demand for recognition in March, the owner has raised wages to $6.75 an hour.