Skip to content
Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Queens Nightclub Owners Livin' Large as Dancers Work for $2 a Spin

Dancers Diana Trejos, Floricelda Alonzo and America Gonzalez
rally near Flamingo nightclub in Queens, where
they take a spin with male patrons for $2 a dance.

The owners of the Queens nightclub where immigrant women
dance with lonely men for $2 a song own homes in ritzy Dix Hills and Bayside
worth more than $1 million.

Luis Ruiz and Edith D’Angelo, owners of the Flamingo club in
Jackson Heights,
live in a flashy peach-colored stucco home in Long Island
while the women at their popular disco work long hours for no wages.

The domineering couple’s two-story home – bought in 2002 for
$365,000 – is embellished with four columns outside the front door, stained
glass windows and a Jacuzzi in the backyard.

Ruiz and D’Angelo are also renovating a property in Queens they bought in 2006 for $670,000, records show.

The club bosses were nowhere to be found Thursday as several
former employees filed suit** claiming the couple broke labor laws by forcing the
dancers to work for free and fining them when they were late or missed a shift.

"From the beginning, they created a sense of pressure
and intimidation," said Diana Trejos, a 40-year-old former dancer and
mother of two from Colombia.
"It was a very traumatizing and sickening experience."

Trejos, who worked at the club from February 2006 to
February 2008, said in court papers that a drunken Ruiz would often call the
women "whores" or "prostitutes," pour liquor on them for
fun and force the women to sign in to use the bathroom.

The owners’ lawyer, Peter Rubin, called the claims

Rubin said the dancers are charged $11 to work each night
and are not paid wages because they are essentially freelance contractors who
buy the right to make money at the club.

"They can come and go as they please," said Rubin.
"Many of them have left my clients’ club and have gone to other clubs, but
have come back because to the best of my knowledge we are one of the few clubs
that have not had problems with the police."

Rubin also said Ruiz and D’Angelo deny forcing the women to
pay a $70 fine when they miss a shift or $10 for each half-hour they’re late,
as several former dancers allege.

The club – a haven for men seeking to press their bodies
against the dancers, who sometimes work in bikinis – was closed last night.

Instead of jiggling their bodies to Latin beats and offering
dances for a couple of bucks, a group of women stood before the club’s windows
and held signs in support of their bosses.

"Flamingo is the best place to work," one of the
signs read.

** With the assistance of Make the Road New York