Stories I pay attention to

October 21, 2008
The City Life

Regulating the 99-Cent Store



There’s greed on Main Street, too. Along Knickerbocker Avenue, the teeming, low-income shopping drag in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, the news is that two top executives at a local supermarket were arrested on felony charges that they had cheated their immigrant workers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary.

The executives deny the charges. But prosecutors allege that they forced grocery baggers to work 11-hour days for $20 or so in customer tips — and no wages. Other workers, they say, were paid nearly $3 per hour less than the state’s minimum wage for 70-hour weeks. Along the avenue, where workers have been routinely short-waged for decades, the idea that someone was finally arrested was a source of amazement — as if the government had decided to regulate Wall Street.

It took years of work by community organizers — remember all of the guffawing about that title at the G.O.P. convention? — at Make the Road New York to finally grab the attention of state investigators.

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