New York construction industry ‘flaggers’ allege rampant wage theft

This story is published in partnership with New York Focus. Victor Ballast was looking for a job. It was January of 2018, he had four children and a wife to support, and he’d had trouble finding work since moving back to the Bronx from Florida. A friend suggested he look into becoming a flagger, a worker who helps keep construction highway projects safe by directing traffic around work sites. Another friend said he was making $42 an hour as a flagger and was in a union. Ballast enrolled in a fl

Rapid Grocery Delivery Service Buyk Accused of Wage Theft by Former Workers

In early March, a co-worker shared with 28-year-old Michael Perez an alarming email from his employer, a Russian-funded, New York City-based ultra-fast grocery app called Buyk. Because of the severe sanctions against Russia, the letter announced, the company had lost access to its investors and was forced to furlough 98 percent of its workforce. For Perez, the letter was just one more disappointment in a long string he had experienced working for the company. “I was at a loss of words, to be h

Bronx Fire Survivors Say the City is Not Doing Enough

After Yadhira Rodriguez, her husband and two sons, lost their home in the Twin Parks fire in the Bronx on January 9, they found themselves in a bedbug-infested room at a Rodeway Inn hotel. The whole family was forced to share a single mattress. They had just survived a 9-alarm fire which had killed 17 of their neighbors, and they were sent to shelter by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Rodriguez and her son had been trapped in their apartment by the sm

The Hidden Costs of Containerization

This article appears in The American Prospect magazine’s February 2022 special issue, “How We Broke the Supply Chain.” Subscribe here. As the world celebrated the new year with family and friends, 23-year-old Filipino seafarer Vince Valeriano marked a dispiriting milestone. For over 15 months, the soft-spoken Valeriano and 22 of his fellow Filipino crewmates have been aboard Cyprus Sea Lines’ massive 54,000-ton MBSC Maria, without ever leaving the ship. This is their second consecutive holiday

Will the Nation’s Largest Urban University System Become Free?

Throughout the pandemic, 25-year-old Jada Shannon has found it challenging to juggle her online classwork with trying to survive a pandemic. A junior at Hunter College majoring in both media studies and women and gender studies, Shannon had hoped to graduate on time, but the pandemic upended her timeline. With in-class instruction resuming across the City University of New York’s (CUNY) 25 campuses this past fall, Shannon was excited to get back into the swing of things. However, when she went

After Initial Setback, Amazon Workers on Staten Island Refile for Union Election

On Wednesday morning, for the second time in three months, Staten Island Amazon workers hand-delivered signed cards to a National Labor Relations Board office in Brooklyn, petitioning that the board authorize a union vote. The refiling comes after six weeks of furious organizing by the Amazon Labor Union, which withdrew their previous petition in early November after they came up short on signed union authorization cards. This time, the union is targeting only the largest facility on Staten Isl

A Homeless Amazon Worker Tried to Organize a Union. Then Amazon Fired Him.

Since August, 25-year-old Daequan Smith has traveled most days from a homeless shelter in the Bronx to Amazon’s fulfillment center on Staten Island, where he worked unloading and sorting products. The trip required him to travel on the 4 or 5 train from the Bronx to lower Manhattan, cross New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry, and ride the S40 bus to its last stop in Bloomfield, the home of Amazon’s sprawling Staten Island campus. All in all, it could take Smith up to three hours to make th

New York’s Yellow Taxi Medallion Crisis, Explained

On a picture-perfect early November afternoon, dozens of yellow taxi drivers danced and feasted in a celebration outside City Hall. They had just endured an arduous two-week-long hunger strike and a nearly three-month-long encampment to demand an equitable city debt relief plan, also known as the “Taxi Medallion Crisis”. It all culminated when the de Blasio administration announced that it has reached an agreement with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) and Marblegate Asset Management, t

Hurricane Ida Victims are Facing Eviction Again

On Monday night, management at the Radisson Hotel near JFK Airport attempted to evict about a dozen guests who have been living at the hotel since early September. Their homes were destroyed by Hurricane Ida. Nacy Peco, one of the guests, who is battling breast cancer, left her room only to return to find her key was not working. Frail and weak with hunger, she was forced for hours to wait in the lobby in her pajamas until she could be let back in. “I need my medication for my cancer,” she sai

Longshot Queens council candidate’s campaign ends in chaos — Queens Daily Eagle

As City Councilmember-elect Shekar Krishnan celebrated his victory with family, friends and supporters at Friend’s Tavern in Jackson Heights on Election Day, a few blocks away, Krishnan’s opponent, independent City Council Candidate Fatima Baryab’s campaign descended into chaos. Around 9 p.m., just as the polls closed, Baryab’s campaign headquarters at Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza saw Baryab’s father, Agha M. Saleh and a campaign worker engage in a physical altercation on the staircase lead

NYC Taxi Drivers Celebrate Medallion Debt Relief at City Hall

A jubilant crowd of dozens of yellow taxi drivers and their supporters celebrated last week’s historic news that New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed to a medallion debt restructuring plan. Organized by the 25,000-member strong New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), the cab drivers were joined by a plethora of elected officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani among others, as they spoke about the importa

New York Yellow Cab Drivers Win Their Fight With City Hall

After a grueling two-week-long taxi drivers hunger strike and a nearly two-month-long encampment outside New York’s legislative center, cabbies finally have a reason to celebrate. Yesterday afternoon, outside City Hall, dozens of yellow cab drivers and owners and their supporters danced in jubilation after receiving the news that the de Blasio administration reached an agreement with the 25,000-member strong New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA). Both parties agreed to a taxi medallion debt re

How Two Innocent Brothers Landed in Brooklyn’s Guantanamo

Their nightmare began on a cool autumn afternoon on September 30th, 2001. Yasser Ebrahim, a 29-year-old gregarious undocumented immigrant from Alexandria, Egypt, and his younger 25-year-old brother Hany, were relaxing in their Ocean Parkway apartment in Brooklyn, when they heard a heavy pounding at their door. Not expecting any company, Yasser cautiously opened the door. Before him were nearly two dozen law enforcement officials from several different agencies such as the FBI, NYPD, and INS. N

Website Glitches and Convoluted Applications Push New York Immigrants Away From Rental Assistance Program

For the last two years, 49-year-old Maria Fernandez has worn many hats. In addition to being a mother of two and the sole breadwinner for her family of five, she has had to act as the caregiver for her ailing husband who continues to battle severe complications from diabetes. For nearly a year he has been hospitalized. To make matters worse, Fernandez, a domestic worker by trade, was suddenly laid off in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. Without a steady income, it grew exceedingly difficult t

Public Housing Is Going Private—and Residents Are Fighting Back

For a little over a year, 32-year-old Samantha Colman and her seven-year-old son have proudly called New York City’s historic Harlem River Houses home. After a tumultuous year in New York’s archaic shelter system that found her being shuttled from one seedy motel to another, Colman eagerly jumped at the chance at permanent housing when the opportunity presented itself in 2019. It was her first apartment on her own, and she could not be prouder to be standing on her own two feet. Soon after settl

Wage Theft Got Worse During Covid. A Stalled Bill Could Give Workers Leverage To Fight Back

This article was published in partnership with Gotham Gazette. Since 2014, Jin Gou Ke, an immigrant from China’s Fujian Province, has worked as a delivery worker for Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Paid a pre-tip salary of just $3 per order, far short of the city’s minimum direct cash wage of $12.50 an-hour for delivery workers, he worked long hours to earn enough to pay for the room he rented in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Typically, Ke said, he worked 11 hour days, 7 days a wee

Immigrant Workers on Strike for Higher Wages at Catsimatidis’ Oil Company

For five years, Dennis Spence has worked as a terminal operator for United Metro Energy Corp. (UMEC). An immigrant from the small Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Spence has three daughters and thought himself fortunate to have a job that paid $27.50 an hour. However, the work was inherently dangerous. Every night, he was required to climb up and down several large oil and chemical tanks to gauge their capacity. One small slip could be fatal. Throughout his five years at the company, discontent

She survived Hurricane Sandy. Then climate gentrification hit

Sitting beside her two grandchildren, Kimberly White Smalls recounted what it was like to flee from her family home as Hurricane Sandy hit the edge of New York City. “It was a complete disaster,” said Smalls, who lives on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. “When we came back the next day, I [had] lost three cars, a scooter, and the house was destroyed.” Smalls was born and grew up in Edgemere, a majority Black coastal community in Far Rockaway, and never dreamt of leaving. She and her husband,

These Laundromat Workers Were Fired After Forming a Union. Now They're Fighting Back

On March 6th, 26-year-old laundromat worker Celia Dabada, along with two other fellow workers and several dozen supporters, braved the frigid winter weather and marched from a laundromat on the Lower East Side to the site of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. The march, organized by the Laundry Workers Center, was meant to bring to light the recent firing of eight employees of Liox Laundry Services which has four locations throughout Manhattan. Workers say they were fired because of

A Pipeline Battle in the Heart of Brooklyn

Last Wednesday, during a contentious virtual hearing, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) allowed public comment on the proposed plan by the multinational utility company to expand its gas storage facility in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York. A chorus of residents, community leaders, environmental activists, and nearly a dozen elected officials (including representatives for Congresswomen Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney) blasted the project, raising
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