On Saturday, February 16th, 2019, Laundry Workers Center gathered with community supporters in anticipation for the workers to announce the newest laundromat campaign. Immigrant women workers who have worked for many years under harsh conditions at Sunshine Shirt Laundry Center in Bay Ridge. They allege that in the 9 years of working at Sunshine Shirt Laundry—often 60 hours in a 6 day work week-- their boss did not pay minimum wage, nor compensate for overtime.
If the work wasn’t grueling enough, the conditions at Sunshine Shirt are downright dangerous. The workplace is not properly ventilated to remove chemical fumes. In the summer and winter the workplace temperatures can become extreme. The boss doesn’t keep up with machine repairs, causing worker injuries such as skin burns from ironing. Workers must lift heavy laundry bags. To make matters worse, workers allege that the employer is physically and verbally abusive. Management pushes and hits the workers, using the excuse that space is reduced.
After the organizing campaign launch and with the support of our allies, the workers quickly won structural changes:
- 5 day/35 hour work week with a 30 minute lunch break
- Stable schedule
- $14.28/hour wages
- Punch clock to prevent wage theft
- Workers’ rights posters—as required by law-- in plain and easy view (minimum wage, health and safety, workers’ compensation)
- Reduced workload. Previously, workers needed to wash and iron more than 240 pieces of clothing per hour. The quota was reduced to 105-125 pieces per hour.
When the company shut its door in July 2019 in hopes to avoid accountability, worker leader Ricarda did not back down. Instead, she joined LWC as an organizer-in-training, working over 7 months developing her leadership and organizing skills in order to support more laundry workers seeking justice.
In May 2020, Ricarda won a back wages settlement with Sunshine Shirt, gaining back wages that were stolen from her by the company.
"After 15 years of working under a lot of abuse for not getting the minimum wage, working without ventilation or heating, and suffering physical abuse, today I will not remain silent. We demand better wages and better working conditions"
- Ricarda Mosso