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Know Your Rights
Source: Crain's New York Business
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Supermarkets Targeted by Advocacy Groups

Rallies Friday in Brooklyn and Queens organized by worker advocacy groups kicked off a campaign aimed at supermarkets that don’t pay overtime or minimum wages.

First on the list were four grocers, one of which, Met Supermarket at 3404 Quentin Rd. in Brooklyn, was slapped with a lawsuit on Wednesday alleging wage and hour violations.

The complaint alleges that Cesar Texis, who stocked the shelves at the Marine Park store for more than two years until he left in July, did not receive overtime wages.

Su Ha, the store manager whose family has owned the business for more than two decades, said she pays overtime wages and that some of her employees have worked at the store for 20 years. Ms. Ha said she employs mostly college students who work six-hour shifts and said she provides a complimentary meal during their shift. “We were shocked by the lawsuit,” she said.

New York Communities for Change filed the complaint on behalf of Mr. Texis. Jonathan Westin, an organizer for NYCC, said the group plans to file three more lawsuits against Associated Supermarket in Sunnyside, Queens and Master Foods and Nebraska Land Supermarket in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

The rally made stops at those stores today. Joining the group of 50 or so protesters were representatives from Make the Road New York and City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams.

A spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Labor said the agency has been monitoring the supermarket industry. Last year it announced a $1.5 million settlement with gourmet grocers Amish Market, Zeytinia, Zeytinz and Zeytuna, primarily for unpaid overtime wages. In 2008, an investigation by the agency found that baggers were not being paid wages at all, relying only on tips.

Mr. Westin says his group plans to file many more lawsuits against supermarkets. “This is the start of our campaign,” he said.