MSNBC Covers Legal Aid Victory For Domino's Workers

Hollis Pfitsch, a staff attorney in The Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Unit, and Carlos Rodriguez-Herrera, a former Domino's employee and volunteer organizer at NMASS (National Mobilization Against Sweatshops), discussed the Society's Domino's Pizza lawsuit settlement on MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner.

Now with Alex Wagner
MSNBC National
February 7th, 2014 4-5 PM

Alex Wagner, Host: Last week, dozens of delivery workers in New York City got $1.3 million from Domino’s Pizza in a settlement over stolen wages. Joining me now is one of the ten initial plaintiffs in the Domino Delivery Workers Lawsuit, Carlos Rodriguez Herrera and Staff Attorney for the Legal Aid Society’s Unemployment Law Unit, Hollis Pfitsch. Thank you both for joining me. Carlos, congratulations on an important win. Tell us, tell everybody that’s watching this show, what was Domino’s doing wrong?

Carlos Rodriguez Herrera, Plaintiff: Domino’s, they’re doing wrong—they don’t pay the minimum wage. They pay me only $4.40 by hour. I used to work 66 hours a week; they paid me between 40 and 45 hours a week. So, they forced me to—besides this, I work no matter what the weather conditions. We clean the restaurant, we cutting pizza, we giving out menus, we move the merchandise from the corporation. So, we’re very glad to get this victory, by how we got this victory, just by organizing with my Domino’s co-workers, other workers from different backgrounds—pastors, students, residents. Because we see the law is very bad; they don’t protect the workers. So, that’s why we got this victory.

Alex Wagner: Hollis, the numbers here are staggering – 84% of fast food workers in New York report being victims of wage theft. Tell us a little bit how this case—how you guys effectively won this case, and what the hurdles were?

Hollis Pfitsch, the Legal Aid Society: Well, it is a settlement, Alex. The case began when Carlos and some other workers went to the National Mobilization against Sweatshops, which we work closely with at the Legal Aid Society. They brought us the case when it was time to take legal action, and Carlos is one of the initial plaintiffs, as you mentioned. The case was originally filed with ten workers; it had minimum wage and overtime claims. And then eventually, we gave notice to the class. More workers joined, and ultimately, 61 workers will be getting compensation in the settlement.

Alex Wagner: Carlos, one of the things I think people don’t understand is you’re working at a wage, not just for yourself – you have 2 children and a wife in Mexico. You live in New York City. How did you—how do you survive on $4 or $5 an hour? Tell us a little bit about what your life is like.

Carlos Rodriguez Herrera: Like you say, New York is very expensive. We have to eat, we have to pay the transportation, the rent—

Alex Wagner: What, how—did you have roommates? How do you—?

Carlos Rodriguez Herrera: Yeah, we live in, maybe like—we live in, like, two or three people in the same room, because the minimum wage is not enough. And this, the [inaudible] franchise, they don’t pay me minimum wage; they’re robbing my hours. How we can survive like that? So, that’s why I decided with my co-workers to, to organize.

Alex Wagner: One quick question, Carlos.

Carlos Rodriguez Herrera: Yes.

Alex Wagner: When you first brought this up to the managers, what did they say? Did they think they could just keep you quiet?

Carlos Rodriguez Herrera: When I complained about the bad treatment, bad conditions – just, he fired me. He said, “The door is open, so.”

Alex Wagner: Well, I think it is a major victory in terms of moving the ball forward on this issue, and your courage, and your bravery, and all the work that you’ve done, Hollis, is really commendable. So, thank you for joining us and sharing your story.

Hollis Pfitsch: Thanks for having us.

Alex Wagner: Carlos Rodriguez and the Legal Aid Society’s Hollis Pfitsch, thanks again.