For Immediate Release
June 21, 2019
What: A Call for a Peaceful Demonstration to Stop Retaliation in the Laundromat Industry
When: Saturday, June 22nd, 2019.
Time: 1:00 PM- 2:30 PM
Where: 7719 5th Ave, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.
NEW YORK, JUNE 20TH – After a year of the Laundry Workers Center launching an extensive report about the working condition of local laundromats, workers continue facing a range of challenges from wage theft, to retaliation for denouncing physical abuse, or any other type of violations. On February 16th, 2019, Maria and Ricarda Mosso, two retail laundromat workers at Sunshine T-shirt Laundry Center, spoke publicly about the wage theft and physical abuse they suffered at the hand of the owners, Huanxin and Sharon Chen. For more than four months, María and Ricarda have been educating other workers in the city of New York about their rights and the impact wage theft has on low wage community. Soon after the workers went public with their claims, they began to negotiate with the owners of the laundromat. The workers demanded that the company pay according to NYS and federal laws and improve the working conditions. Sunshine Shirt Laundry Center made some changes but fell short of its promises of following the law. Instead, the owners decided to fire the workers in an illegal retaliation. It is not just a violation of the good intention of the workers to resolve this issue in an amicable term, but a clear violation of the law that prohibits any retaliation against employees who bring a wage theft claim. As Ricarda Mosso articulated,
“I want justice. I worked for this company for more than 15 years; I suffered physical and verbal abuse. I suffered wage theft, and even with all of that, I decided to give a chance to resolve this issue, and the way they paid us was by firing my co-worker and me. I will not rest until we win justice, until every worker is treated with respect and dignity in this country.”- Ricarda Mosso, campaign leader
Wage theft continues hurting the American workforce. The Economic Policy Institute published a report: “Employers Steal billions from workers’ paychecks each year” highlights that in the ten most populous U.S. states, 2.4 million workers lose $8 billion annually (an average of $3,300 per year-round workers) to minimum wage violations—nearly a quarter of their earned wages. The report “Workplace Issues and Socio-Economic Conditions of Laundromat Workers in New York City” sheds light to the different violations workers suffer in the retail laundromat industry, including but not limited wage theft. Moreover, the Laundry Workers Center has found that wage theft perpetrators use legal loopholes to evade the law. One of the most common practices of those evaders is to close the business and to later open under a different name or corporate structure. We urge New York City elected officials to address this issue and to end wage theft in our city.
We invite media outlets, together with workers’, immigrant and women’s rights advocates and the general public, to attend a peaceful protest for the rehire of Ricarda Mosso and Maria this Saturday in Brooklyn. The Laundry Workers Center is a worker/community-organizing group that has received wide recognition for helping immigrant and low-wage workers defend their rights, including at B&H Photo and the Hot and Crusty bakery (as shown in the award-winning documentary The Hand That Feeds).