En Español Know Your Rights
Source: The Village Voice
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Grocery Baggers, Some Unpaid, Win $300,000 from Supermarkets

Six
New York City
supermarkets have agreed to pay some $300,000 to baggers who worked in their
stores for tips only and no base pay, the state Department of Labor announced
yesterday.

 


The
supermarkets, located in low-income neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn, Queens
and the Bronx, include a Key Food on Myrtle
Avenue
near the Fort Greene/Bedford-Stuyvesant
border, and a C-Town in the Norwood section of
the Bronx. The largest settlement was reached
with a Pioneer Supermarket in East New York,
which must pay $160,000 to 12 baggers.

 


In
many of the cases, the settlements were reached because the stores treated the
baggers as volunteers and didn’t pay them any salary at all. However, in some
cases, such as Pioneer, markets were fined because even though they paid their
workers, the amount was below minimum wage (less than $7.15 an hour), or they
failed to pay overtime.

 


According
to
Andrew Friedman, the co-director of Make
the Road
,
a community-based organization that pointed out some of the shady supermarkets
to the Department of Labor, the baggers were pulling in between $200-400 a
week, making for what he called a "very tight budget."

 


Besides
packing groceries, many of the workers also made deliveries or did other tasks
assigned to them by actual supermarket employees. For an account of what it’s
like to bag groceries for tips read here (keeping in mind that for this guy,
the tips are a supplement to his income, not its only source).

 


In addition to the
six settlements announced yesterday, two more markets currently under
investigation by the DOL owe a combined $400,000 — which still kind of seems
like chump change compared to the $3 million settlement Gristedes had to pay in
2003 for paying some of its delivery men just over a $1 an hour.