Labor Seal NYS Department of Labor                          

Contact Leo Rosales Cell: 518-281-6167 Office: 518-457-5519 Email: leo.rosales@labor.ny.gov www.labor.ny.gov
New York State Cracks Down on Grocers Who Don't Pay Their Baggers

New York, NY (June 02, 2009) - At a Brooklyn press conference today, New York State Deputy Commissioner of Labor Terri Gerstein, along with Make the Road New York, announced the results of a sweep involving eight supermarkets across the city. As a result of this investigation, six out of the eight grocers have agreed to pay past and present baggers $317,687.28. Two other stores are in negotiations to resolve the matter. These supermarkets employed individuals to bag groceries and did not pay the baggers any wages. Instead, the baggers worked long hours for tips only.

“When supermarket customers drop a few coins into a paper cup by the cash register, that is a tip -- not a paycheck,” said Deputy Commissioner Gerstein. “It is outrageous that employers would pay no wages at all and leave their hardworking employees with an empty bag at the end of the week. The Labor Department will continue to pursue employers who fail to comply with even the most basic requirements of running a business in this state.”

The baggers sweep began in late fall of 2008. Members of the Labor Department’s Fair Wages Task Force inspected the eight supermarkets and found that in most cases the employers were in compliance with minimum wage and overtime wages for the rest of their employees. However, investigators discovered that the majority of the stores’ baggers, who place customers’ groceries in bags at the checkout, were paid no wages by the employer and worked for tips only. In addition to packing groceries for the customers, these individuals often did deliveries and performed other tasks as instructed by management. Interviews revealed that the baggers often worked between 20 and 80 hours per week. In at least one case the supermarket employed minors who did not have the required child labor permit.

Several of the supermarkets investigated were referred to the Department of Labor by Make the Road New York, a community-based organization. The eight supermarkets are located in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens.

The six that have settled include:

  • Associated Supermarket, 3907 103rd Street, Corona, NY. $49,223.18 will be distributed to three employees.
  • Key Food, 952 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. $44,861.00 plus an additional $2,500 in civil penalties will be distributed to four workers employed as baggers. Child labor penalties were issued to this employer because it employed minors without the required working permit.
  • Pioneer Supermarket, 381 Mother Gaston Boulevard, Brooklyn NY. $160,451.57 will be distributed to 12 baggers. Sometime in 2006, the employer began paying baggers wages but the hourly rates were below the minimum wage.
  • Food Bazaar, 452 Wyckoff Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. $5,321.50 will be distributed to one bagger.
  • C Town, 264 East 204th Street, Bronx, NY. $17,618.40 will be distributed to four baggers and six other employees, and $4,500 in civil penalties will be payable to the Department of Labor.
  • Fine Fare, 3131 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY. $40,211.63 will be distributed to 11 employees, four baggers and seven other workers, and an additional $1,500 in civil penalties will be payable to the Department of Labor.

In addition to the six settlements outlined above, the Department of Labor has conducted investigations on a Pioneer Supermarket in the Bronx and a C-Town Supermarket in Manhattan. The Department estimates these stores owe approximately $400,000 in minimum wage and overtime wages to baggers and other employees.

The investigations were carried out by Fair Wages Task Force investigators Adrian Beckles, Emy Bautista, Pierre Magliore and Favio Escudero of the New York State Department of Labor, Division of Labor Standards.

The state minimum wage is $7.15 per hour and will increase to $7.25 per hour next month. Employers are required to pay overtime at one and one-half the employee’s regular rate of pay after forty hours per week. Under state law, these requirements apply even if there is no formal hiring process, as long as the employee has been “suffered or permitted” to work for the employer.

The State Labor Department encourages employers and workers to contact the department about wage and hour issues. Investigators will answer any questions regardingNew York’s labor laws. Information is also available on the department’s web site – www.labor.ny.gov; or by phone at 1-888-52-LABOR.