NY Supreme Court Decides Employer Must Face Workers’ Claims for Long Hours and Wage Theft

 "We have been forced work overtime, 24 hours a day. If we refuse, no work for us. I worked in this situation more than 10 years. It has been very hard for myself and my family. Many and many workers are facing the same situation. We are not taking this anymore, we want justice, we are not slaves. Please support our effort."

“We have been forced work overtime, 24 hours a day. If we refuse, no work for us. I worked in this situation more than 10 years. It has been very hard for myself and my family. Many and many workers are facing the same situation. We are not taking this anymore, we want justice, we are not slaves. Please support our effort.”

On September 9th, Hon. Carol Edmead of the New York State Supreme Court issued a decision in Chen v. Chinese-American Planning Council Home Attendant Program, that workers could pursue a class action against their employer. An article summarizing the decision appeared in the New York Law Journal earlier this week.

Home attendant workers have been coming together and organizing despite their isolating work conditions, and despite the employer’s attempts to use the union and the New York State Department of Labor (“DOL”) against them. Many who have come forward were forced to work a grueling 24-hour shift taking care of sick and elderly patients without even 5 straight hours to sleep. In the employer’s latest attempt to evade responsibility, the Chinese American Planning Council (“CPC”) used DOL opinion letters to justify not paying workers for 12 hours of their 24-hour shifts or training time, and even tried to use a settlement with the DOL to claim they have no liability. CPC also tried using the union’s collective bargaining agreement to undermine the higher “living wage” they owe the workers, and to re-direct the workers’ claims through arbitration in which the union, and not the workers themselves, would be directing the charges. Justice Edmead’s decision threw out all of CPC’s attempts to dismiss the workers’ claims, and the class action lawsuit is moving forward. This decision has a huge impact on thousands of workers who have labored as home attendants for CPC across New York, and many thousands more home attendants who face similar conditions.  

Most significantly, the workers are coming together to speak out about the mandatory 24-hour shifts that cause physical injuries and mental anguish. Whether paid or not, working 24 hours leaves workers with no time to do anything but work. As more home attendant workers come forward, they are not only pursuing the lawsuit for their unpaid wages, but they are also demanding an end to the mandatory overtime. If you are interested in learning more or organizing more workers, please contact us to find out what you can do to get involved!

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Read Our Article in the Fall 2014 Issue of Brooklyn-Queens NOW News

Across all industries, people are facing longer work hours and earning less. Simply raising the minimum wage won’t resolve the problem. Rampant underemployment and unemployment is the result of the skyrocketing use of mandatory overtime. In fact, one in every three workers have jobs that require it.[i] Long hours not only affect service or low-wage workers but office workers as well, with 62% of high earning professionals working more than 50 hours per week.[ii] As some work the equivalent of 2 or 3 jobs, others are jobless or underemployed. Longer work hours means less jobs and lower wages for all. Increasing the minimum wage alone will not resolve society’s inequality if we do not address long work hours. Simply put, mandatory overtime exacerbates income inequality and make us poor.

Three years ago, workers at Pactiv, a subsidiary of Reynolds Group Holdings, organized to confront and fight against the exploitation they faced at the plastic packaging factory. Pactiv retaliated against them by laying-off 60% of the packers and forced the remaining 40% of the mostly women workforce to do 100% of the work. “I worked two or three machines, and then when they fired the others, I started working five machines. My body started to deteriorate. I told [the manager] my body was not doing well. My back was hurting, I…was still forced to do overtime.” – Mei Rong Chi, former Pactiv worker. While Pactiv increased the wage rate by 15% for the remaining packers, their workload increased over 100% and they were forced to work overtime. The Pactiv workers saw that, to win, they would need to unite with all workers around the common goal of ending mandatory overtime.

Women bear the brunt of the work, recognized and unrecognized, in our society. In the Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign, Pactiv women workers are leading the fight for all working people and our families. By concretely exposing how mandatory overtime is destroying working conditions and livelihoods, they point out to us the solution and the direction forward. “After working as an executive assistant for 18 years, I was laid off so that my company could force extra work on fewer workers. Since then, it’s been impossible to find a job with a 40-hour work week,” says Lea Geronimo.

Pactiv workers are being joined by students, office workers, caregivers, and many other workers to eliminate mandatory overtime. Will you too join this campaign at this critical moment so we can all work together to build a movement against income inequality and for justice for all working people?

Contact us at: (212)358-0295, aiwcampaign@gmail.com

www.aintiawoman.org, BoycottReynolds.org

[i] Dembe, Allard E. Ethical Issues Relating to the Health Effects of Long Working Hours, Journal of Business Ethics, 2009, Vol 84, p. 198-199.

[ii] Id. at 197.

You can view the entire contents by clicking the link:

BQ NOW – Fall 2014 newsletter

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“Ain’t I a Woman?! campaign comes to Costco” by Lorena Ramirez

BK Home Reporter Article - Costco Rally 2014 Read the entire article here.

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NY Daily News: Workers want Costco to stop buying Reynolds’ sweatshop products

A group of activist-workers has a message for Costco: “Stop supporting sweatshops.”

The mostly Asian and Hispanic women want the retail giant to make some wholesale changes to its plastic purchasing practices.

Specifically, the workers want Costco to stop buying from plastics conglomerate Reynolds, which draws a large portion of its product stock from a subsidiary company called Pactiv.

read the whole article here

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Sat. 7/26 Rally for a Pactiv-free Costco!


Pactiv, owned by billionaire Graeme Hart, is one of the worst sweatshop companies in the country. Pactiv:

– Forced Kearny NJ workers to do so much overtime that they became injured and even disabled;

– Sped up the machines to the point that the women were not able to use the bathroom;

– Retaliated against women who spoke up in their factory, and fired them for trying to organize.

Boycott Pactiv and parent company Reynolds until they meet workers’ demands:

 1. The right to take bathroom breaks.

2. The right to sick days and parental leave.

3. The right to speak out and organize without retaliation.

4. Reinstatement with back pay for those terminated.

5. The right to a 40-hour work week and NO mandatory overtime.

Join the rally for a sweatshop-free Costco!
 Join us on July 26 to demand that Costco immediately stop selling Pactiv products.

Date: July 26, 2014

Time: 2:00pm

Location: Brooklyn Costco

take the D/N/R to 36th st

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Global Protests Against Pactiv

Around the world, people are protesting Pactiv and Reynolds.

Read the Salon story

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Women’s E-News Reports: Women Raise Grievances Against Reynolds

She Works Hard for the Money: Women Raise Grievances Against Reynolds

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