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Store owners charged with wage violations

March 26, 2009 3:20:09 PM PDT
Two Bronx business owners have been arrested for allegedly underpaying their employees. Officials say that in some cases, the workers were only paid $4 an hour, well below the legal minimum wage of $7.15 an hour.

The two business owners are facing 40 counts each.

Fifty-seven-year old Walter Galiano owns a bakery of Arthur Avenue. He allegedly withheld over $350,000 in wages from 25 workers. He is also charged with failing to pay unemployment insurance.

Thirty-five-year old Alex Moreno, who owns two gas stations and a car wash, is accused of withholding more that $250,000 in wages, and paying employees only $4 an hour.

The investigations spanned two years, and also accuse the owners of cover-ups. "They retaliated against their workers," said New York State Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith. "They made their workers retract statements once the state Labor Department came to them. They told their employees to run out the back door once the Labor Department investigators came."

Word of Galiano's arrest spread quickly along Arthur Avenue, with both business owners and employees reacting.

"Everybody is entitled to work, and they have to make money and a living, especially the economy we have," said Ahmed Badi, owner of Arthur Fashions. "Nobody can work for free. It's not good for the employees, is it? It's not good for anybody."

Restaurant worker Moe Pelinkovic said, "At the end of the day you need to feed your family, and you're not getting paid. It is especially sad to hear in this day and age, with everything going on in the economy."

Labor specialists point to studies that show violations of wage and hour laws are rampant, but workers often too afraid to come forward.

Tsedeye Gebreselassie of the National Employment Law Project said, "Jobs that consistently pay below the wage floor are bad for our workers, bad for their families and, bad for the economy."

Web produced by: Josh Bell


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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