New Orleans A week long jury trial in federal court gave five nail salon worker employed by a Korean-owned chain in Long Island almost $250,000 in back pay and overtime for Fair Labor Standard Act violations for underpayment below minimum wages. The case for these marginal, often ignored service workers was brought forward by a coalition of organizations who are part of the “Justice Will Be Served” Campaign, spearheaded by the well known Chinatown Restaurant Workers in New York City.
A visit to the campaign’s website proves quickly that this has been a long time fight to organize marginal service workers by an independent group of organizations working in the New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey area, mostly employing a strategy of winning compliance with FLSA standards on wages. The charge, complaint, and enforcement strategy to build confidence in the workers inspiring more organizing, is a tedious and determined road for the campaign, but seemingly a sure one. The nail salon case dates back to 2009. Other accomplishments on the website date as far back as 2003. This is hard, patient work in the vineyards for service workers that need organization, but fall outside of the usual parameters of most institutional labor unions.
Organizers quoted in the New York papers yesterday hope that this inspires a wave of organizing among nail salon workers. That will probably not be the case, but what this victory may do is eventually provide some resources and deepen the commitment and interest in future organizing by the campaign and its member organizations, many of whom are likely supported now more by private resources than membership dues.
A strategy to move among marginal service workers has to be applauded. Victories on FLSA might create partnerships between organizations and law firms gaining more confidence in moving towards class actions for such workers and being able to fund the organizing through potential cy pres monies.
One can hear the organizing opportunity knocking loudly if anyone is still attuned to the sound.
Justice needs to be served for such workers!