CONTACT: Rosanna Rodríguez, [email protected]
What: Launch of new report on hazards, low pay, harassment facing NYC laundromat workers
When: Tuesday, June 26th, 11 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.
Where: Worker Institute at Cornell University, ILR School Conference Center, 6th Floor, 16 E. 34th St.
NEW YORK, JUNE 20 – An extensive new report by the Laundry Workers Center will be issued this Thursday, June 26th, exposing the poor working conditions, low pay and frequent abuses facing workers in New York City’s coin-operated laundromats. Based on three years of participatory research at hundreds of laundromats throughout the city, the report, “Workplace Issues and Socio-Economic Conditions of Laundromat Workers in New York City” sheds light on the violations and hazards that laundromat workers confront in the hot, cramped and often dangerous workplaces where much of the city’s vast quantities of dirty laundry are washed and dried.
As a fragmented and often isolated workforce, laundromat workers face unique vulnerabilities and challenges when it comes to organizing or advocating for their rights. With over two thousand licensed laundromats in New York City, bringing this situation to public attention is an important step in building the power of these workers, 86% of whom are women, almost all drawn from communities that racial and ethnic discrimination. Among the report’s key findings:
- Laundromat workers face significant health and safety issues. Nearly all respondents reported exposure to at least one potential workplace hazard, with upwards of 90% reporting exposure to bleach, other chemicals or excessively soiled clothing.
- 45% of respondents report that their job does not provide them with sick days. 13% did not know whether or not their job provided them with sick days. One in five workers who reported an hourly wage are making $10.00 per hour or less, a likely violation of New York’s minimum wage.
- Laundromat workers are subjected to high levels of harassment, with more than half of workers (54%) reporting some form of harassment. Harassing conduct reported by workers included insults and put-downs, racial slurs and, in some cases, physical assaults or sexual harassment. Nearly a third of workers reported feeling that their personal safety was at risk while at work.
The human factor behind such devastating statistics is highlighted in the report by quotations from workers such as Nicolás B., who said: “I see a lot of exploitation in this industry. I am never paid the minimum wage, and the owner never pays me for overtime. The owner will deduct money from our pay to stock the cash register and the soap account. Other times, he will deduct our money to pay fines to the city, even though we are not responsible for the violations.”
We invite media outlets, together with workers’, immigrant and women’s rights advocates and the general public, to attend the launch of this eye-opening report on an overlooked yet vital part of New York life and labor. The Laundry Workers Center is a worker/community organizing group that has received wide recognition for helping immigrant and low-wage workers defend their rights, including at B&H Photo and the Hot and Crusty bakery (as shown in the award-winning documentary The Hand That Feeds).