En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Seedy Queens Club Made us Slaves, Dancers Claim

Worker
arrives at Flamingo Club, a popular Queens
club where women get paid $2 a song to dance with patrons.

The
Flamingo is famed in its Queens neighborhood
as a place for lonely men to dance with scantily clad beauties for just $2 a
song.

But several
former dancers at the Jackson
Heights night club allege
they were treated like virtual slaves – forced to work hundreds of hours a week
without pay and to endure abuse and humiliation by the owners.

In a
multimillion-dollar lawsuit expected to be filed today, several former dancers,
bartenders and waiters contend dance hall owners Edith D’Angelo and her
husband, Luis Ruiz, violated labor laws and treated them inhumanely, according
to Make the Road New York, a community organization representing the
employees.

"[Ruiz]
would insult the women by calling us ‘whore’ or ‘prostitute,’ and he would
throw drinks and alcohol on our bodies," a former dancer said in an
affidavit obtained by the Daily News.

The dancers
also say they were:

Not allowed
to sit down, eat or drink water during shifts of 10 or more hours.

Made to
change in rooms that were under video surveillance.

Ordered to
have bar managers inspect their toilets after each use to make sure they didn’t
use too much toilet paper.

Forced to
repeat humiliating statements about themselves during meetings, such as,
"I am fat and ugly. I am the reason that Flamingo is losing
business."

"It is
an outrage and it’s shameful the way these women have been treated," said
Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens). "To me, it’s shocking that these sort of
labor practices are happening in America in the 21st century."

Dancers at
the Roosevelt Ave.
hot spot have to pay the house to work there – $11 each night. They are fined
$10 for each half-hour they’re late and are forced to pay $70 if they call in
sick, former dancers said.

Each night,
the young women dress in different outfits – sometimes only in bikinis or lacy
pajamas – and offer to dance salsa, bachata or cumbia with men for $2 a song or
$40 an hour.

City
officials said the working conditions violated labor laws, city officials said.

Outside the
club yesterday, bar manager Aridio Herrera was unapologetic.

"We
didn’t do anything wrong," Herrera, 29, said. "Our customers don’t
speak any English, so we don’t care if it’s in the paper."