Workers rights advocates, led by Retail Action Project (RAP), held a press conference and victory march earlier today, to celebrate a successful lawsuit against the aptly named Yellow Rat Bastard (YRB), a Soho-based clothing store.
According to the Attorney General's Office, YRB and its affiliates violated labor laws by failing to pay employees minimum wage or overtime pay. More than 1,000 workers, past and present, are set to see a slice of the $1,4 million settlement. More here. Organizers said they hope the lawsuit will serve notice to other Soho retailers that low wages and poor working conditions won't go unnoticed or unpunished.
Many of YRB's current and former workers are immigrants from Africa. Idrissa, 29, was born in Burkina Faso, and now lives on 183rd Street near the Grand Concourse. He worked in YRB's basement warehouse (below the the flagship store) for six years, until resigning last summer. At first, Idrissa said, he was grateful for the money ($5.25 an hour), but that the "rat infestation" and 70-hour weeks eventually wore him down.
Idrissa, who didn't want his last name published, said the victory was about more than money. "It's about raising awareness that this type of exploitation is going on in other businesses in New York," he said.
Bronx community leaders who attended the march included Bakary Camara of the Gambian Society (pictured left) and Titikpina Djounedou (right), president of the African Peoples Alliance and an organizer with the North West Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.