FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 9th, 2008
Numerous Workers To File Suit On Their Own Behalf For Over Half A Million Dollars In Back Wages – Plus A Collective Action Worth Millions More On Behalf Of All Current and Former Employees
Close to a Hundred People to Rally, Launching Campaign to Change Working Conditions
What: Press conference to announce lawsuit followed by an evening protest when the club opens. On Thursday, workers will file suit against Edith D’Angelo, owner of Flamingo Night Club, and her husband, Luis Ruiz for over half a million dollars in back wages and for battery. Flamingo (officially called "Edita’s Bar and Restaurant") is one of the most popular men’s night clubs in Jackson Heights, Queens where female employees dance with male clientele for $2.00 per song.
Dancers will describe how their employers exercise control over their employees through an elaborate system of fines and punishments. They will describe how dancers obey these rules because they fear Luis’ rage and tendency towards violence.
Dancers were forced to work for no wages at all, to pay fees to work and fines if they were sick. Other workers worked as many as 119 hours per week and received no overtime pay – a flagrant violation of federal and state law.
Employees will also speak about abominable working conditions and the verbal and physical abuse, including: not being permitted to sit down, eat or drink water during shifts of ten or more hours; video surveillance in the dressing rooms in which dancers change into required costumes for theme nights such as "Bikini Night," "Schoolgirl Night," and "Pajama Night"; having alcohol poured down their pants or their shirts by Luis and then being forced to keep working with wet clothes; being forced to repeat humiliating statements about themselves, such as "I am fat and ugly. I am the reason that Flamingo is losing business," in staff meetings; being forced to hand out flyers in cold weather wearing a mini-skirt and halter top; and not being allowed to flush the toilet after using it before a manager inspected its contents to ensure that too much toilet paper wasn’t used.
One DJ will tell of being slapped in the face routinely by Luis, over the course of three years. The employers’ control over employees even extended to requiring that all dancers attend the funeral of Edith’s mother in 2007.
In addition to suing for back wages and damages, workers will also demand a change in working conditions for current workers. The suit will be filed at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The former employees filing suit (including dancers, waiters, disc jockeys, janitors, and other support staff) are represented by attorneys from Make the Road New York and the Urban Justice Center.
Who: Former dancers, bartenders and waiters at Flamingo
Make the Road New York, community organization
Council Members Hiram Monserrate and Eric Gioia
Urban Justice Center, legal advocacy group
When: 12 Noon – Press Conference
5PM – Protest
Where: 85-12 Roosevelt Avenue, 7 train to 82 Street.
Photo Opportunity / Interviews with affected workers available