NYS Wage Board Recommends an Increase to Tipped Workers’ Wages, Service Workers Call on Cuomo to Make the Wage Increase Real

The State Wage Board’s recommendation Friday to raise the minimum wage of tipped workers is a step in the right direction. Coming after more than a year of picketing and outreach in front of the State Department of Labor by service worker members and supporters of the Justice Will Be Served Campaign, this recommendation finally ends the discriminatory exclusion of tipped workers from the 2013 minimum-wage increase in New York State.

Now Governor Cuomo has a chance to set things right for tipped workers. The Wage Board’s recommendation of an increase to $7.50 an hour falls short of what is needed. It is too little, too late. $7.50 is still a poverty wage in New York. Governor Cuomo should raise the minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped workers immediately–and not delay until the end of the year–and tie it to inflation.

Moreover, he should enforce the labor law to make any increase real. Delivery workers, busboys, and nail salon workers are among those making as little as $2 an hour. Some are not paid a wage but told to rely on tips. Yet, many report tips being illegally pocketed by their employers.

Tips are also vital to tipped workers’ wages and need to be protected. With an increase in wages for tipped workers, employers will try to use other means to generate profits. For example, in New York City’s Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, already 30% of the restaurants have raised the prices of food on their menu and posted notices on the wall instructing customers not to tip. In light of these practices, we call on the State to strengthen enforcement to prevent tip stealing. Enact new legal protections for workers so that employers cannot discourage customers from tipping or forbid their employees from informing customers that tips are not included. In the event that they do, employers shouldbe held responsible for the lost tipped wages.

The Justice Will Be Served Campaign is sponsored by the Chinese Staff & Workers Association, Flushing Workers Center, National Mobilization Against SweatShops, and the 318 Restaurant Workers Union. We invite all service workers to join us in calling on Governor Cuomo to give us a real minimum-wage increase and enforce to law so we can eliminate the sweatshop conditions in our workplaces and fight for improvements.

Woman Warrior: a poem by Yolanda Donato

Our members are constantly developing new ways to talk about the work of organizing in our communities and our workplaces. Recently, with outreach for our 5 year pledge fundraising campaign in mind, Yolanda Donato, an NMASS board member, composed this poem: 

A strong Woman warrior has the fortitude
of not being afraid of anything
and displays courage in the midst of her fear
A Woman warrior gives from her seed
strength hope security as a woman worker
and as a mother keeps on fighting to obtain a better future
A woman fights with pain and sweat on her face
and in her veins she keeps on fighting for our people
I am proud to keep on fighting together as a united community
I am a fruit and I will not let these roots get forgotten
because I am a woman of fortitude
just like my people and we will be a strong community
and that is a Woman warrior
As long as I have any strength
I will give away the best of me to everyone
although my steps are slow
I will have the sufficient courage to go forward
with firm force to conquer the obstacles of life
and I will continue with an expression of confidence and security
And I thank God for being what I am a Woman warrior
to show to others that it is possible to fight
don’t let them take away the best of you
even though we make mistakes and we try to avoid them
Yes we can fight for a better future
and receive blessings and learn from them
that is a Woman warrior
Yes we can achieve it but only together
Una Mujer fuerte y luchadora tiene la fortaleza
de no termerle a nada
y demuestra valor en medio de su temor
Una Mujer luchadora da de su semilla
fuerza esperanza seguridad como trabajadora
y como madre sigue luchando para conseguir un futuro mejor
Una mujer lucha con dolor y sudor en su frente
y en sus venas sigue luchando por nuestra gente
es un orgullo seguir luchando juntos como una comunidad unida
Soy un fruto y no dejaré que se pierda esas raíces
porque soy una mujer de fortaleza
al igual que mi gente y seremos una comunidad fuerte
y eso es una mujer luchadora
Mientras tenga fuerzas regalaré lo mejor de mí a todos
aunque mis pasos sean lentos
tendré el coraje suficiente para seguir adelante
con fuerzas firmes para vencer los obstáculos de la vida
y seguiré con una expresión de confianza y seguridad
Y doy gracia a Dios por ser lo que soy una Mujer luchadora
para dar a otros que sí se puede luchar
No permitas que te quite lo mejor de ti
aunque cometemos errores y los evitamos
Sí se puede luchar para un futuro mejor
y recibir bendiciones y aprender de ellos
eso es una Mujer luchadora
Sí se puede lograr pero juntos


CUNY Labor Coalition Honors NMASS

Last month, the Labor Coalition for Workers’ Rights and Economic Justice at theCUNY School of Law honored NMASS for its work to build a new labor movement. Coalition member Kristen Zapalac presented the award and emphasized NMASS’ unique and timely perspective that calls on all of us, as workers, across trade, ethnicity, race, and age, to come together to address our common exploitation. Several NMASS members were on hand to accept the honor and reminded the more than 100 gathered that even though workers continue to win important victories against wage theft, such gains are threatened as long as Governor Cuomo and the Department of Labor allow the epidemic to gain momentum by refusing to enforce and strengthen the labor law.  The leadership of workers was credited with shaping current legislative proposals—now endorsed by more than 50 organizations statewide—that would strengthen labor law enforcement by making it easier for workers to collect stolen wages from employers. Member and former Domino’s worker Carlos Rodriguez Herrera also invited all attendees to join the national campaign to end mandatory overtime, pointing out how more and more, bosses use mandatory overtime to pay workers less money for more work at the expense of workers’ health, time, and pay. Led by women workers, the call to eliminate mandatory overtime can protect workers’ health and safety, alleviate unemployment, raise wages, create jobs, give workers more control over their time, and reduce the income inequality gap.

Daily News: Wage Theft Too Often Going Unpunished

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS || Sunday, November 23, 2014: New York is a great city, but as Marco Lino can attest, a workers’ paradise it is not. For four years, Lino, 53, worked 13 hours a day, six days a week stocking shelves at Rosemary’s Farm, a small grocery store in Flushing. His weekly salary was $350, that is, about $4.65 an hour. In October 2008 he was fired after protesting to his boss about his meager — and illegal — salary and filed a complaint at the Department of Labor. Six years have passed, and Lino is still waiting for justice.

“I am tired of waiting,” he said.

Read the whole article >>


Workers Demand Cuomo’s Department of Labor Enforce the Law or Face Legal Action

On Wednesday, November 12, workers and advocates held a press conference outside the NYS Department of Labor to announce potential legal action if the DOL continues to allow criminal bosses to break the law. Employers are getting away with failing to pay the minimum wage and overtime; stealing tips; withholding wages from day laborers and construction workers; and misclassifying car service workers and unpaid interns so that they don’t get paid a penny. (more…)

This Wednesday, 10/15, 9am: Demand Governor Cuomo Enforce the Labor Law

Governor Cuomo: Stop promoting sweatshops in NYS

and stand up for workers

Our monthly pickets outside the Department of Labor have brought together service workers, office workers, day laborers, and unpaid interns, and have succeeded in pressuring Cuomo to convene a wage board to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers as well as in reviving a few cases of wage theft that had languished for 6 years.  (more…)

From our friends at the Flushing Workers Center: Workers Protest the Bank of Tokyo for Benefiting from the Sweatshop Practices at Rainbow Limo

On September 23, 2014, workers and supporters will protest the Bank of Tokyo to demand it stop benefiting from the sweatshop practices at Rainbow Limo. Two groups of workers at Rainbow Limo came forward to fight back against sweatshop conditions and filed lawsuits against Rainbow Limo and owner, SeongBae Dan for failing to pay overtime, stealing a percentage of the workers’ tips and demanding $10,000 from drivers in order to work.

The Bank of Tokyo, Japan’s largest bank, is one of Rainbow Limo’s main contracts. The workers sought support from the Bank of Tokyo but the bank ignored the drivers. Workers and supporters will call for Bank of Tokyo to take responsibility and pay the workers immediately.