Second Rally Against Wage Theft Slated for Thursday at 7-Eleven in Princeton
The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund will hold a rally against wage theft from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Thursday, April 7, at the 7-Eleven store at 259 Nassau Street in Princeton.
Three Princeton residents who are former employees of the store filed a lawsuit in Mercer County Superior Court March 21 against the Princeton 7-Eleven Store, its owners and managers, and the Dallas-based 7-Eleven, Inc. in connection with alleged wage and hour violations.
This will be the second rally at the store. The first rally was held on March 24.
The residents say they worked at the Princeton 7-Eleven when the store first opened in November, stocking shelves, cleaning, and doing other maintenance duties. They allegedly were paid $6 or $6.50 per hour, substantially less than the legally required $8.38 per hour New Jersey minimum wage in 2015.
According to their lawyer, Roger Martindell of Princeton, they sometimes worked up to 12 hours a day, and sometimes worked seven days a week, but were never paid the legally-required overtime rate of one and one-half times their regular hourly wage for hours worked over 40 hours each week.
Store representatives have denied violating the law and claimed that the workers had signed documents indicating they would not be making claims against the store. Martindell said his clients do not read English and, under the laws, cannot be bound by any document they may have signed in the circumstances.
Maria Juega, Executive Director of the Latin American Legal Defense Fund, claims that 7-Eleven franchisees have repeatedly been found in violation of wage regulations and of exploiting immigrant workers over the years. In 2014, nine store owners on Long Island were sentenced wage theft, in addition to other charges.
Martindell said that his clients are suing not only on their own behalf, but also as part of a collective action on behalf of all 7-Eleven workers in the central New Jersey markets.
Some people have asked what the immigration status of the workers is. Martindell said regardless of immigration status, under state and federal law, all workers are supposed to be treated equally.
“It’s well established that under state and federal law, whether or not an employer legally hires someone, they must pay them according to the law,” he told Planet Princeton. “They can’t underpay, can’t refuse to pay, can’t beat them up, can’t steal from them. Employers must follow the laws of the land.”
Martindell said the regulations are good public policy.
“If workers were not protected from abuse by employers who illegally hire the worker whether or not the job is legal for immigration purposes, the workers could be put in great danger of poverty, victimization, even slavery and physical abuse,” he said. “Our society is not built on mistreatment of workers by employers. They should be held accountable for hurting workers, whether or not the job is a legal job for immigration purposes.”
Some resident have been boycotting the store because of the alleged wage theft. Martindell said he would encourage people instead to support the workers by expressing dismay about the company’s wage practices to store managers when they visit the store.
So they are “undocumented.” That does not change the violation, but it does skew their credibility. Key to their case will be documentation of their actual hours and compensation, if they were being paid “under the table” they would not have signed documents to avoid bringing complaints, so the twists make this fascinating to unravel.
I look forward to seeing this play out in court.
How we treat each other in community is important. If someone is doing something usurious or injurious to someone else here, they should just stop it because it harms another human. This is a civilized place in the world (or so we hope and pray it is), and should remain so. Anyone paying people off the books is already saving huge amounts of SSI, other employment taxes, and erasing a health insurance obligation… so, paying people less than minimum under the table is really something beyond greedy behavior. My family won’t shop anywhere that doesn’t treat humans fairly, so we appreciate word of these infractions. Those picketing should also make sure they’re equally positive & supportive of all people in our community, or they run the risk of losing credibility in their protest.
My only issue is my definition of “treating humans fairly” applies to all humans. If the operators of this franchise were actually paying these workers under the table, they would be in violation not only of State and Federal law, they would also be in violation of their franchise agreement with Southland corp.
I use the word “if” because all we have at this point are allegations. It would be unfair to the owners to boycott their business if these allegations are false. There is no more reason to believe they are guilty based on the violations of different franchise owners in another state than there is to discriminate against all 7-11 employees because the owners are often Pakistani Sikhs who wear turbans.
Justice requires patience from and for all parties.
Great Point, Blake. When the Battlefield Society falsely stated that IAS contractors dumped soil in protected wetlands, I initially believed that false claim & became worried about the natural habitat near IAS. Fortunately, Krystal published the DEP findings proving the allegations against IAS were UNTRUE. I love our community because people from ALL cultures & ethnicities are here. My belief that all people should be paid a living wage remains. (My belief in IAS was also restored after the truth was revealed.)
Is there a minimum number of people needed to call something “a rally?” Just wondering.
You need 15 of them per hour. That’s the legislated minimum
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