In a victory for workers’ rights, garment workers in New York’s Chinatown were recently awarded1.2 million US dollars in damages for unpaid wages owed to them for work at a clothing factory between 2005 and 2010.
The 13 workers made clothes for Walker Street Factory, a Chinatown garment factory producing primarily for retail chain Dress Barn and plus-size women’s retailer Lane Bryant. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) filed the law suit on behalf of the workers in May 2011 because they were paid by piece only despite working worked 10-12 hour shifts, six to seven days a week, without any regard to minimum wage or overtime pay.
"Not all of the garments made for American manufacturers are made overseas. Garment sweatshops still exist in Manhattan, and workers are still not being paid overtime and minimum wages," said the AALDEF’s legal director Ken Kimerling in a statement.
In addition, the factory owner did not pay the workers regularly and in the end, owed them 110,000 in unpaid wages. When the factory closed in 2010, the owner moved to China, claiming he had no money to pay his workers. The latter did not buy the story and approached the AALDEF, which acted swiftly on their behalf.
Federal judge P. Kevin Castel issued the award in Manhattan last Wednesday. "This excellent decision shows that while some manufacturers may be spending more to monitor their work overseas, they still need to protect American workers as well," commented Kimerling when talking to China Daily.