By Madina Toure
A group of former Rainbow Limo drivers and the Flushing Workers Center held a boycott outside the Bank of Tokyo last week to protest the bank’s involvement with the limousine company, which drivers say has committed acts of violence and wage and hour violations.
The drivers and the Flushing Workers Center called on the state attorney general to investigate the arrangement between the Bank of Tokyo and Rainbow Limo and to revoke the company’s franchise license and city Taxi and Limousine Commission permit if its continued its alleged sweatshop practices.
“We had appealed to them in the past numerous times, alerting them of these labor violations at Rainbow Limo, but they continue to do business with them and so the workers were kind of fed up with waiting around,” said Sarah Ahn, an organizer at Flushing Workers Center, a membership-based organization that seeks to improve working and living conditions in Queens.
Through a spokeswoman, Bank of Tokyo declined to comment.
Two of the five drivers who filed the group lawsuit are from Flushing.
In a wage-and-hour lawsuit, the drivers say they were classified as franchisees, or independent contractors. They allegedly paid $10,000 to start working despite not being given an opportunity to read through the contract. They also claim they were not given protection under the labor law, having to pay for all of their expenses, including the cars, the gas and uniforms.
The Bank of Tokyo, they said, is Rainbow Limo’s largest client. Employees use Rainbow Limo for their transportation needs and take no responsibility concerning wage and labor violations, they argued.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court March 2, 2012, against Rainbow Limo and SUK Incorporated, former Flushing resident June-il Kim, 71, who worked for Rainbow Limo from 2000 to 2010, was seeking unpaid overtime compensation, unpaid spread of hours compensation, compensation for all unauthorized deductions and full compensation plus interest for all payments he made for an illegal franchise.
Rainbow Limo could not be reached for comment after several phone calls were placed to the company and its legal counsel. SUK Incorporated would not comment in time for the story. . =“It really is about one employee, one worker standing up to this company that’s doing illegal things and getting away with it and finally him saying, ‘I can’t take this,’” said HyoSung Bidol-Lee, Kim’s lawyer. “He’s not just doing this for himself either. He really does believe the way drivers are treated in this industry is wrong.”
Another group of drivers — Kevin Lee, Richard Lim, Clifford Kim, Jong Sun Chung and Hwa Ten Shih — also filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court back on July 1, 2013.
The drivers were seeking compensation for wages they legally earned, including minimum wages and thousands of hours of overtime pay and reimbursements for employment-related expenses.
The two cases were eventually consolidated given that they had similar issues.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.