The Laundry Workers Center (LWC), also known as Laundry Workers Center United, is a worker center dedicated to improving the living and working conditions of those in the laundry, warehouse, and food service industries in New York City and New Jersey. LWC trains low-wage employees in union activism and supports labor agitation efforts.
The Laundry Workers Center runs the Progressive Block Leadership Institute, a training program to prepare low-income workers for union leadership. 1
During the COVID-19 pandemic, LWC shifted its focus to short-term support for union members, including conducting outreach seminars to educate workers on their legal protections and access to New York State’s Excluded Workers Fund. 3
In 2020, LWC member Beatriz Ramirez was fired from her job at the New Giant Laundromat for allegedly criticizing safety standards in the workplace. With LWC support, the company rehired Ramirez after a publicity campaign. 4
In February 2019, LWC supported worker action against the Sunshine Shirt Laundry Center for alleged abuses. The workers gained concessions, including higher wages (at least $14.28 per hour), a 35-hour work week, and indefinite permission to hang workers’ rights posters. In July, Sunshine closed down. With LWC support, workers continued legal action against the company and won a settlement in May 2020. 5
In 2014, employees of Liberato Restaurant launched a campaign against their employer for alleged abuses after being trained by LWC. Soon after, Liberato sued LWC. In January 2015, Liberato Restaurant filed a RICO suit against LWC for allegedly attempting to extort the business by harassing employees and customers. LWC and the Liberato employees claimed victory after receiving concessions in 2016. 6 7 8 9
Also in 2014, LWC trained workers of B&H Photo on union organizing and tactics in response to alleged employer abuses. In the following year, the workers formed a union. In February 2016, in response to union claims, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against B&H alleging discrimination against Hispanic workers. In May 2017, B&H workers went on a one-day strike along with other Hispanic unions across the United States as part of the “Day Without An Immigrant” campaign. 10 11 12
In early 2023, A24 Films auctioned props from the production of Everything Everywhere All at Once and donated the proceeds to the Laundry Workers Center. 13
In 2020, LWC received $10,000 from the Brooklyn Community Foundation. 14
Laundry Workers Center is a founding member of the New York Worker Center Federation. 18
LWC is a member of the SWEAT (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) Coalition. 19
LWC is a member of the NY Essential Workers Coalition, “a group of over 85 unions, worker centers, immigrant rights organizations, legal service providers, health and safety organizations, and community-based organizations” that supported laws designed to protect essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 20
LWC was a member of the Justice for Job Seekers coalition, a group led by New Immigrant Community Empowerment. The coalition served as a watchdog for immigrant work agencies until New York passed the Justice for Job Seekers Bill in 2016 to enact more agency regulations. 22
- “About Our Community.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/ourcommunity.
- “Attorney General James Recovers $90,000 in Stolen Wages for Queens Laundry Workers.” Laundry Workers Center. November 26, 2022. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/stolen_wages_recovered.
- “Fund for Excluded Workers.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/fund_excluded.
- “New Giant Launder Center.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/new_giant_launder_center.
- “Sunshine Campaign.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/sunshine.
- Knaub, Kelly. “NY Restaurant Slams Immigrant Association With RICO Row.” Law 360. January 20, 2015. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.law360.com/articles/613213/ny-restaurant-slams-immigrant-association-with-rico-row.
- “Liberato v. Laundry Workers Ctr. United.” Case Text. May 8, 2015. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://casetext.com/case/liberato-v-laundry-workers-ctr-united.
- “Liberato Restaurant.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://laundryworkerscenter.org/campaigns/liberato-restaurant/.
- Divito, Nick. “Rude Mechanicals’ Protests Protested.” Court House News. July 16, 2014. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.courthousenews.com/rude-mechanicals-protests-protested/.
- Gampat, Chris. “Workers Are Still Protesting Outside of B&H Photo Video For Better Treatment.” The Phoblographer. May 1, 2017. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.thephoblographer.com/2017/05/01/workers-still-protesting-outside-bh-photo-video-better-treatment/.
- “#BHEXPOSED.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://laundryworkerscenter.org/campaigns/bhexposed/.
- Berlinger, Joshua; Shoichet, Catherine E. “B&H discriminated against Hispanic workers, Labor Department lawsuit says.” CNN. February 29, 2016. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2016/02/29/us/bh-photo-lawsuit/.
- Sun, Rebecca. “A24 Auctions ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Costumes and Props for Charity.” Yahoo! Finance. February 22, 2023. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/a24-auctions-everything-everywhere-once-160000256.html.
- “Laundry Workers Center.” Brooklyn Community Foundation. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.brooklyncommunityfoundation.org/grant-recipients/laundry-workers-center-0.
-  “Seeking Organizers to Join Our Volunteer Community Funding Committees.” North Star Fund. July 13, 2023. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://northstarfund.org/2023/07/seeking-organizers-for-community-funding-committees/.
- “2022 Grantees.” Emergent Fund. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.emergentfund.net/2022
- Manheim, Jarol B. “The Emerging Role of Worker Centers in Union Organizing.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.uschamber.com/assets/archived/images/uscc_wfi_workercenterreport_2017.pdf.
- Schindle, Arianna; Eid, Basma. “Immigrant Workers in New York City Unmask a New Movement.” Truthout. March 22, 2016. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://truthout.org/articles/immigrant-workers-in-new-york-city-unmask-a-new-movement/.
- “SWEAT Coalition.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/sweatco.
- “NY Essential Workers Coalition: NY Heroes Law.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/nyheroslaw.
- “Food Chain Workers Alliance.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/food_chain_workers_alliance.
- “Justice for Job Seekers.” Laundry Workers Center. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://www.lwcu.org/j4js.