Wage Theft Allegations and Ties to LIFE 890
The Bellino Brothers, Michael and Stephen, own Liberty Ashes and have been accused of wage theft and associating with disreputable lawyers and labor officials.
Drivers recently sued the Bellinos for unpaid overtime on 80-hour work weeks including overnight shifts of up to 16 hours. One of these cases appears to have been settled in early 2016. Another class action lawsuit on behalf of drivers is ongoing.
Sub-minimum Wages and Forced Arbitration Clauses in LIFE 890 Contract
Workers at Liberty Ashes are represented by LIFE 890 an independent union that operates from a Brooklyn townhouse owned by the Mongello family. At the end of December 2016, Liberty Ashes and LIFE 890 executed a new contract. In exchange for a 17 cent/hour raise, LIFE 890 agreed to insert a forced arbitration clause that has the effect of preventing the Bellinos’ employees from using the public court system for wage and overtime claims. Forced arbitration is a common practice used by corporations to thwart employees’ legal rights and prevent class-action lawsuits. Liberty Ashes is now using this clause to attempt to retroactively stop a former driver from proceeding with a class action wage theft claim filed in 2015, one year before the new LIFE 890 contract was executed.
The new agreement neglects to update the “minimum starting rate” for employees doing hard and dangerous work (such as helpers who ride on the backs of garbage trucks, and welders in the garage.) In fact, the agreement specifies a starting wage of $8.00/hour for these titles, which is $3 lower than New York City’s minimum wage at the time the agreement was signed.
In negotiating this contract, the Bellinos were represented by attorney Steven B. Horowitz, who, according to a recent declaration by Francesco Bellino, “has handled all aspects of the Local 890 bargaining for the last 10 years.” Horowitz also represents Tom Tolentino and Planet Waste. Planet Waste and its associates have been accused of labor law violations, including threatening workers and providing unlawful support to LIFE 890, in their efforts to bring in LIFE 890 to replace the union currently representing workers.