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Gourmet Grocery workers fight back against wage theft

February 26, 2009 Updated: August 24, 2020

(New York)—Five hundred and fifty gourmet grocery workers will receive nearly $1.5 million in unpaid wages, thanks to the efforts of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1500.

In 2008, several workers at Amish Markets and related stores Zeytinia, Zeytinz, and Zeytuna approached UFCW Local 1500 because they wanted to form a union at their stores. UFCW soon discovered that many workers were not being paid proper overtime and brought the violations to the attention of the New York State Department of Labor.  The DOL conducted a sweep of nine locations and confirmed widespread wage and hour and labor violations including:

–employees who had worked up to 60 hours per week who were not paid time-and-a-half for their overtime as required by law;

–workers paid less than the minimum wage as part of a “trial period”;

–at least one whistleblower who was terminated in retaliation for providing information to the New York State Department of Labor.

Bruce W. Both, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 said, “When workers do not receive the pay they’re entitled to by law, both workers and taxpayers suffer. Unpaid wages also mean unpaid taxes. We can never tolerate that, especially in these difficult economic times. The New York State Department of Labor and the workers from Amish Markets, a gourmet grocery store serving high-end food products, deserve the gratitude of every taxpayer in the city because they had the courage to stand up and say: ‘This is wrong!’ Today, the only thing being served and delivered by these grocery workers is justice.”

Local 1500’s Gourmet Grocery Campaign is an effort to bring a union voice on the job to workers in New York’s gourmet grocery industry so they may secure middle class wages, decent benefits, and improved working conditions.

Local 1500 and the Building Blocks Project play a leading role in bringing good food, good jobs, and good health to New York’s neighborhoods by promoting and establishing policies that preserve existing supermarkets, develop new supermarkets and ensure the ability of grocery workers to form unions.