Bellport, NY – Workers, elected officials and community residents on Friday called on Quality King, one of the nation’s leading distributors of brand items, to negotiate a fair labor contract for one of its subsidiaries — and end what they call the “culture of harassment and intimidation of immigrant workers.”
In a Sept. 24, press conference held in front of Quality King’s 35 Sawgrass Drive HQ, they denounced the company for regularly engaging in scare tactics, such as firing workers after attending rallies. They also said the company has not investigated reported instances of harassment and sexual harassment. UFCW Local 2013, the union representing Quality King workers, has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Local 2013 also condemned Quality King’s failure to bargain a fair contract with a living wage for its subsidiary Perfumania (one of the nation’s leading distributors of designer perfumes).
State Assembly Member Joe DeStefano, Suffolk County Legislators Jim Mazzarella and Nicholas Caracappa, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Long Island Labor Federation Political Director Ryan Stanton, Ani Halasz from Jobs with Justice, and other elected officials and community leaders participated in the press conference.
“The Nussdorf family (owners of Quality King) is one of the richest county and yet time-after-time, as we enter into contract negotiations, we have to show up at their headquarters demanding fair and humane treatment of the workforce they employ – the people they hire and then choose to treat like animals by forcing them to work at or near minimum wage while they pocket millions in profits and get millions in taxpayer
assistance through tax breaks given to create good paying jobs,” UFCW Local 2013 President Louis Mark Carotenuto said in a statement.
County Legislator Mazzarella called the situation “appalling.”
“As elected officials we find this situation appalling and will not allow the exploitation of hard working men and women in Suffolk County,” he said. “This is purely a case of corporate greed, where a company uses its wealth to take advantage of blue collar workers.”
Ani Halasz said, “Long Island Jobs with Justice and our community, faith and labor allies are committed to supporting and standing alongside Quality King workers as they fight to ensure a fair contract under the climate of fear and retaliation coordinated by the employer. At a time when working people are struggling to get back on their feet, Quality King’s profit and greed driven tactics further harm our communities and economies, and they need to be held accountable to that.”
During the recent contract negotiations on behalf of Perfumania, Quality King hasn’t been willing to provide better wages and working conditions. The company is offering a contract with zero raises for two years and no retro pay to the end of the previous contract. Perfumania, one of Quality King’s five divisions affiliated to UFCW Local 2013, employs 80 workers, mainly immigrants. The company also has reportedly hired union-busting firm Jackson Lewis, to intimidate the workers and “bust” union efforts. Assembly Member DeStefano, as well as Suffolk County Legislators Mazzerella, Caracappa, Robert Calarco, Sam Gonzalez, and Kevin J. McCaffrey, had previously sent a letter to the company in support of the workers.
“We strongly urge you to negotiate a contract that offers a decent standard of living for the hard workers residents and taxpayers of Suffolk County”, local legislators said in a joint letter. “Wages that hover at or near the minimum wage are not adequate for survival on Long Island, and certainly do not advance the health, general prosperity and economic welfare of the people of this state.”
As a privately held company, Quality King is not required to make public financial disclosures. However, according to Hoover’s Company Records, the combined revenue of the company and its subsidiary is approximately $3.2 billion annually. In addition, the company has received millions of dollars in subsidies through tax breaks from the IDA, also incentives intended to advance job opportunities and economic prosperity.
As an example of how the company treats their workforce, the workers highlighted its actions at the height of the pandemic in March 2020, when 60 workers came down with COVID-19 and the managers sought to minimize the situation. Upon telling workers that “it’s all in your head,” management gave workers cans of Lysol to clean their worksites, and refused to have a professional cleaning done. Workers were not provided proper PPE, and the company refused to give the union an accurate accounting of the toll the virus was taking on the workforce. The Attorney General’s office investigated the company for reportedly price gouging of Lysol.
Mirna Amaya and Claudia Fernandez, workers at Quality King’s Perfumania, said that they need better wages, seniority raises and no “give backs.”
Quality King and its subsidiaries distribute over 5,000 brand items to supermarkets, drugstores, retailers, wholesalers, and also e-commerce nationwide, from distribution centers in Bellport and Ronkonkoma. Press Conference participants urged the company to resume contract negotiations and find joint solutions to the contract grievances and the workers’ concerns regarding health safety, unjust terminations, union busting practices, and sexual harassment.