“Justice Will Be Served” for Nail Salon Workers as Opportunity Knocks

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!

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Gulf Coast Hospitality Workers Need to Sit on Oil Spill Santa’s Lap Now!

Nimages-1ew Orleans My darling and brilliant niece’s husband, an Australian bloke who we dearly love, was working this summer running a high end, specialty bar at the W Hotel on Poydras Avenue in New Orleans during the time of the terrible British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill.  My daughter, Dine,’ now a mainstay of the Local 100 United Labor Unions organizing staff in New Orleans and ever alert to both injustice and opportunities started telling me a couple of weeks ago about huge, wild settlements going to bartenders in the French Quarter, CBD, and even in our Bywater neighborhood.  The amounts were amazing:  $7000 to one, $17000 to another, and so on!  I was skeptical.  She cited Will Miller as an impeccable source, so I was moved, but wanted to know more.  Maybe this was just a benefit being sought and received by a secret society of New Orleans bartenders, rather than part of the Kenneth Feinberg compensation and damages program, official called the Gulf Coast Claims Facility?

With the deadline hard on us for emergency claims to be submitted (Close of business on Tuesday 11/23!), I didn’t’ want to start an irresponsible gold rush, if this was nothing more than rumor fueled by alcohol coming from the hands of the same bartenders.  I know not to trust the hometown paper as the ultimate authority on these matters, but all of their storylines had focused on oil workers, fishermen, and others barely staying afloat with graphic photos from the beautiful and damaged bayou country south of the city.  Why were we not seeing pictures of lines trailing out into the streets here in broke ass New Orleans, if money was falling from BP trees, especially in the always hospitality hard luck and humidity summer season?

My daughter – the organizer – felt the issue was that not enough people knew this was possible and were going to apply and get the compensation.   Pressed this week for more information, she confirmed that other conversations with hospitality workers in her haunts, I mean after more outreach and research, she had turned up servers and other “line” workers who had applied and gotten payments also ranging in the thousands of dollars.              Ok, I’m there!

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