By Stephen Stirling
A Long Island City clothing distributor has been accused of swindling its employees of more than $5 million in minimum and overtime wages by the state Labor Department, which alleged that the garment contractor went as far as forcing his employees to memorize “cheat sheets” of information to dupe investigators.
Labor Department Commissioner Patricia Smith said the state has cited Jin Shun Inc., owner of Urban Apparel at 47-51 33rd St., for allegedly underpaying more than 100 employees from across the borough more than $3 million in wages since 2005.
The garment distributor — which produces clothing for retailers like Macy's, the Gap, Banana Republic, Express and Victoria's Secret — also owes workers another $2.5 million in back wages prior to 2005, when it operated under the name Venture 47, Smith said.
“This factory paid sweatshop wages, kept fake records and coached employees to lie, even though it had signed retailer codes of conduct to comply with the law. The Department of Labor will use all legal tools to stop this mistreatment of workers,” Smith said.
Former workers interviewed by the TimesLedger said the company's more than 100 employees lived mostly in Queens, coming from neighborhoods mainly along the No. 7 train subway line, such as Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and Flushing.
The workers said they were forced to memorize a “cheat sheet,” which gave a series of answers they were demanded to give if asked by investigators.
Smith said the Labor Department “tagged” more than 10,000 garments at the Long Island City factory, which labels them as unlawfully manufactured goods. Within hours of the tagging, Smith said Urban Apparel paid $60,000 in underpayments to have the tags removed.
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.