By: Bendix Anderson
On February 23, New York City police officers arrested millionaire David Cohen, owner of the Mystique Boutique retail chain, in Manhattan. The crime? Cohen allegedly paid workers less than minimum wage, failed to pay overtime, and even threatened and attempted to bribe witnesses to keep them from talking to investigators.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo ordered the arrest. “When you arrest a guy, you get his attention,” says Cuomo. “Enforce the law and people will follow the law.” Cuomo has a long history of fighting for the rights of workers like the employees at Mystique.
“This is not the first time Cuomo has stood with workers,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. “I really cannot say enough about him.”Cuomo’s pro-labor history is now more important than ever for labor leaders. That’s because Cuomo now seems likely to be a leading candidate in the race this year to become the nest governor of New York State.
In recent speaking engagements, Cuomo is full of sidelong references to the governor’s race. He has yet to formally announce his candidacy, though pundits and politicos from the New York Post to the New York Times already consider him to be a front-runner, especially since current governor David Paterson dropped out of the race in late February.
Cuomo’s pro-labor record includes negotiating to protect jobs. For example, when A&P bought the Pathmark grocery store chain in 2007 for more than half a billion dollars in stock and cash, A&P reportedly planned to close several stores. As attorney general with some oversight over the deal, Cuomo worked with A&P to keep help keep the stores open and protect the jobs of workers threatened with layoffs. In the end, A&P sold five stores to another grocery store chain. No unionized stores were closed.“The attorney general’s office protected workers rights — and worker’s jobs,” says John Durso, president of Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.