Friday, November 4, 2011

Overworked, underpaid Flatbush market workers sue and win big

Settlement nets Master Food employees $300,000 and a union contract

Workers at Flatbush supermarket Master Food.

BY Erin Durkin 

Workers at Flatbush supermarket Master Food. Workers at a Flatbush supermarket who charged they were illegally stiffed on their wages for years settled a lawsuit for $300,000 - and a union contract.

The 30 workers at Master Food on Church Ave. charged they worked 12 hour days, six or seven days a week, for as little as $3.93 an hour, and never got required overtime pay.

"It was a sad situation. We knew we weren't being paid what was right, but we needed to work," said Enoc Figueroa, 26, of Flatbush, who was helping support his mother, five brothers, and three nephews in Honduras. "I have my family that I have to support and with that amount of money it was difficult."

The workers sued earlier this year - and getting a union contract instead of just back pay to settle the suit represents a new tactic for unions and advocacy groups. It's the first deal reached in a campaign launched earlier this year to organize low-wage workers, which has been targeting several Brooklyn supermarkets.

"Many times, at a lot of different stores where there's significant wage theft violations, when workers decide to go after the owners to get their money back, the owners have to pay up, but then they go right back to cheating the next workers," said Jonathan Westin of New York Communities for Change.

"The best thing to do for workers is to get long-term protection."

The contract with RWDSU/UFCW Local 338, ratified this week, guarantees hourly pay above minimum wage, regular if modest raises, overtime pay, and paid vacation and sick days.

"Things are different, thank God. I'm very happy with what we won," said Pedro Galicia Postrero, 61, of Park Slope, who worked 72 hours a week washing fruits and vegetables for $350-400.

"They paid me very little...I barely had enough to pay for rent, for food, for electricity. I just didn't have money for anything," he said. "But no one complained. We were all quiet. We were all working blindly and we didn't know where to go."

Owner Mun Kwan Cha could not be reached for comment, and his lawyer did not return calls.



  2. Why were they all quiet that statement alone will tell you something was going on that is not being reported in this story cone on print the whole story not just what you want


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