Workers Picket for Payment

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The ongoing controversy over questionable labor practices by Upper West Side businesses continued last week, as more than 90 workers picketed on Amsterdam Avenue in solidarity with former nail salon employee Susan Kim.

In October 2007, Kim won a legal battle against her former employers for unjust firing, failure to pay overtime and violation of New York labor laws. A federal court awarded her $182,000 in back payments and, earlier this year, it also ordered her former bosses to pay $181,000 for attorney fees and costs. Husband-and-wife owners Mou San Rim and Dong Rim Park were the subjects of the suit. Rim has since transferred assets and declared bankruptcy, but Kim’s lawyers claim he is only doing so to avoid complying with the judgment.

“I’m here today to demand justice from the bosses of the salon,” Kim said at the June 18 rally. “For too long I have been struggling because they have not [paid].”

Simply Nails, formerly 167 Nails Plaza, was the site of a protest last week. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Simply Nails, formerly 167 Nails Plaza, was the site of a protest last week. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

In April, Kim’s lawyers introduced a second case against Rim after he transferred to his son, Sokho Lim, two condominiums worth almost $3 million for only $20.

“If we are successful, the court will reverse the transfers and with those assets Susan could receive her pay,” said Kim’s lawyer, Barry Kamar.

Kamar explained that they did not hear back about the initial payment from the owners of Simply Nails, formerly known as 167 Nails Plaza, until June 16.

“They never answered to the complaint and two days ago I received a letter from his attorney saying that Mr. Rim filed for bankruptcy,” Kamar said.

According to the law, all court cases are held back until the bankruptcy filing is reviewed. However, Rim’s lawyer, Jae Y. Kim, said that his client filed because he had other business and credit card debts, not to avoid complying with the judgment.

“Mr. Rim is hoping for a fresh start,” the lawyer said.

Nonetheless, Kamar said that Kim’s legal team is reviewing all the options in order to get moving the second case.

Meanwhile, workers gathered in front of Simply Nails, at 167 Amsterdam Ave. near West 67th Street, to demand justice and express support for Kim.

Josephine Lee, one of the protest organizers and a member of Justice Will Be Served, said that the group will continue to hold pickets every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in front of the salon. The event also served as the kick-off for additional pickets planned in front of other area stores that are believed to be violating labor laws.

“Simply Nails, Kim’s Vegetables and Saigon Grill are the worst bosses, and starting at the Upper West Side they should serve as an example for the rest of the city,” Lee said.

Saigon Grill, on Amsterdam Avenue at West 90th Street, was the subject of a highly publicized labor dispute that died down last December with the arrests of both owners on more than 400 charges. Former employees of Kim’s Vegetables, on Amsterdam Avenue at West 104th Street, recently filed a lawsuit against the owners for racist treatment and sweatshop conditions. Protests in front of Kim’s are being scheduled for Fridays at 5 p.m., according to Lee.

The June 18 protest received the support of Park River Independent Democrats, Community Free Democrats and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal.

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