Erik McGregor is a New York City based artist, photographer and activist. Erik is a member of the People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street and co-writer of the Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. As a published freelance photographer, he has documented activist groups actions in NYC since 2011.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Retail laundromat workers stand up against abuse in their workplace in Harlem, NY
NEW YORK, NY – While our clean clothes tumble at high heat, laundromat workers are being hung out to dry. As a fragmented and often isolated workforce, laundromat workers face unique vulnerabilities and challenges when it comes to organizing or advocating for their rights.
On June 28, 2018; the workers at TYS Laundromat, a retail laundromat also known as Sunshine Laundromat at 215 east 116th Street in Harlem went public with their labor campaign surrounded by community supporters and the Laundry Workers Center. The employees delivered a demand letter to the owner, calling to an end of wage theft and dangerous conditions in their workplace.
Mr. Benitez, a laundromat worker and a leader in the community highlights the unbearable conditions at the workplace: “I see much exploitation in this industry. I have never been paid the minimum wage, and the owner has never paid me for overtime work. The owner deducts money from our pay to stock the cash register and the soap account.”
The Laundry Workers Center (LWC), a not-for-profit organization that empowers low wage workers in NY and NJ. LWC has supported the effort of these workers in their quest for justice. For nine months, LWC has provided private legal and educational training and support to the workers for their efforts to end exploitation in their workplace. The workers are demanding real changes in their workplace. Employees are working 12 hours a day without a lunch break and without receiving a minimum wage, in violation of federal and state law. One of the most despicable things the owner does is to force the workers to sign for their money in “fictitious names”. If they do not sign as instructed they do not receive their salary. The owners never provide the personal protective gear that the workers need to do their job safely. Workers must spend their own money to buy toilet paper for customers and for themselves as the owner doesn’t provide it. As employee Leticia states:
“Laundromat work is very hard work. We, the workers, are exposed to dirty clothes without protection. Clothes with fluids, blood, vomit, and stool. We are exposed to insects like cockroaches and bedbugs. Sometimes, the customers drop off clothes with sharp objects inside like razor blades, and with very bad odors”
LWC invited the media together with workers’, immigrant and women’s rights advocates and the general public, to attend the launch of this eye-opening labor organizing campaign to assure that the laundry industry here in NYC and beyond follows the law and respects the rights of the workers who serve our communities.
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”).