Seafood company employees sue for overtime [Crain's New York Business]

Mon, 09/24/2007 - 11:55am

Lisa Fickenscher

Published: September 17, 2007 - 3:16 pm

Wild Edibles, one of the city's top seafood companies, boasting two retail stores in the city and a large wholesale business, was sued Monday in federal court by 16 employees who say they were not paid overtime wages.

A group of workers and supporters announced the lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, this afternoon in front of trendy Pastis restaurant on Manhattan's Ninth Ave. and 12th St., one of Wild Edibles' wholesale customers.

The group also alleges that Wild Edibles owner Richard Martin fired four workers who joined a labor union and tried to convince their colleagues to do the same. The union, Industrial Workers of the World, represents some 2,000 members, who work in warehouses, agriculture, construction and transportation.

A new worker advocacy group, Brandworkers International, organized the campaign and legal action against Wild Edibles.

“We want to shine a light on difficult working conditions,” says Daniel Gross, co-founder of Brandworkers.

According to Mr. Gross, Wild Edibles employees work 10- and 12-hour shifts without receiving overtime wages. The company has three retail stores, one at 535 Third Ave. between 35th and 36th Streets, one at Forager's in Brooklyn, and one in the chic Grand Central Market. It also has one wholesale facility in Queens.

Other worker advocacy organizations, most notably ROC-NY, have recently made overtime pay and discrimination a cornerstone of their campaigns against certain employers in the restaurant industry.

Most of the Wild Edibles employees are immigrants, says Mr. Gross.

Mr. Martin of the seafood company could not be immediately reached for comment.

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