In Memory: Attorney Debra Evenson
A bitterly contested campaign against Pur Pac, a food distribution warehouse giant reached a settlement of $470,000 for workers who had their wages illegally withheld and more. The workers organized with Focus on the Food Chain, Brandworkers and International Workers of the World to challenge sweatshop conditions, wage theft, retaliation and discrimination in the sprawling industrial corridor of food processing and distribution that service New York City markets and restaurants. Daniel Gross, the executive director of Brandworkers said: “The conditions in the sector are deplorable and systemic but, as the Pur Pac workers have shown, positive workplace change can and will be won.”
- Pur Pac is typical of these food processing and distribution warehouses that provide a tremendous amount of food to restaurants and supermarkets in New York. Much of what we eat in restaurants is processed in sweatshops.
- Pur Pac is a distributor of restaurant and food supplies to Chinese restaurants, cafes and bakeries. They distribute huge quantities of rice, cooking oil, chopsticks.
- Sweatshop conditions, tremendous amount of wage theft, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Vicious retaliation for workers who stand up for their rights, exhausting long shifts, very heavy work.
- We facilitate worker-led, comprehensive campaigns. The company used several tactics to avoid accountability here. The main approach that they used is they engaged in sham sales.
- They would fraudulently transfer assets, rebrand the company. The company was originally called Easy Supply. Easy Supply escaped accountability by purporting to go out of business, now same factory, same trucks, same products was called Sunrise Plus. We caught up with Sunrise Plus and they engaged in another sham sale and that created Pur Pac.
- We were able to win a binding code of conduct, which creates very powerful protective mechanisms for collective activity, going forward.
- We were able to win recognition for the IWW, as exclusive bargaining agent for Pur Pac workers. It was really the biggest victory for Focus on the Food Chain.
- I was a low wage worker mostly in retail and fast food. I was working at Borders Books and Music and really felt the sting of a multinational employer which at the time was highly profitable. It didn’t pay a fair wage, offered an insecure and unpredictable schedule.
- It employed a management force that really showed tremendous disrespect for rank-and-file workers.
- We had 44 Starbucks stores that were infested with rats and insects. We did worker-citizen journalism and we got photos and video of these rats and roaches, we inflated a huge, inflatable rat in front of the stores and shared our video and photographic evidence.
- Starbucks is still engaged in really a scorched-earth effort, complete disrespect for the right to organize and free association.
- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the administrative agency charged under federal law with administering union management affairs. They have jurisdiction over cases under the National Labor Relations Act.
- Mezonos Maven Bakery is a food production sweatshop. Mezonos Maven was cheating workers out of their wages, disrespecting workers, and the workers came together, they didn’t join a union but they came together with community groups, etc. Mezonos Maven started illegally firing workers.
- When the workers stood up for the most basic worker’s rights, they were subjected to fierce immediate retaliation.
Guest – Attorney Daniel Gross, Executive Director of Brandworkers, a non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees.
Federal Judge Rules Former Mayor Daley Can Be Sued for Alleged Torture Cover-Up
We continue to bring updates on the ongoing police torture and abuse scandal revolving around former Chicago police commander Jon Burge. A federal judge has now ruled that former Chicago mayor Richard Daley can be included in the lawsuit, where he is charged with conspiracy to cover up police abuse and torture. As many listeners may know, Burge has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for obstruction of justice and lying about torturing prisoners to obtain coerced confessions. The People’s Law Office brought the case in 2005 and the city of Chicago refused to settle while pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the case.
In the beginning of September, attorney Flint Taylor will depose former mayor Richard Daley, which will force him to answer questions about the abuse of African-Americans under Burge’s command. This case has already cost Chicago taxpayers more than $43 million in settlements and legal fees. Past shows with Attorney Flint Taylor
- Daley was the state’s attorney for Cook County for eight years in the ’80s; during that time he was specifically informed of police torture.
- Instead of doing anything about it and dealing with the torturers, Jon Burge and company, he continued to encourage it by prosecuting men who had been falsely arrested and charged based on tortured confessions, sending many of them to Death Row.
- When he became mayor, he continued to have an active role in the cover-up of the torture practice.
- He had at various times as chief of law enforcement and chief executive of the city of Chicago, the power and obligation to act, and if he did, we wouldn’t have had all these men on Death Row and in the penitentiary, and we wouldn’t have had all these men tortured.
- We brought it up several times in lawsuits starting in 2003. Judges had consistently turned their backs on that claim.
- The new Chicago mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, who has successfully tip-toed past this both in his campaign and now as the first 100 days of being mayor now had to respond to it.
- They’ve paid over $13 million to defend these civil cases that we’re in. We take the mayor at his word, and we hope this leads to settlements and compensation for the men who’ve been tortured.
- There are six men who have lawsuits in court. Unfortunately, because of statute of limitations, most torture survivors don’t have lawsuits.
- There are still 15 men behind bars in Illinois, based on tortured confessions that Jon Burge and the Area 2 torturers coerced from them. We’re fighting to have them all get new hearings.
- I don’t know if a Daley denial in some of the actions in this case would tantamount to perjury that Fitzgerald would be interested in.
- There is a major memorandum that was sent from the police superintendent at that time to Daley, a kind of CYA saying “I’ve been given this powerful evidence of torture from a doctor over at the county hospital.”
Guest – Attorney Flint Taylor, a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern University School of Law and a founding partner of the People’s Law Office.