News & Politics

Yellow Rat Bastard Busted


After complaints that he’s been exploiting his workers, Yellow Rat Bastard owner Henry Ishay was arrested Wednesday for failing to maintain proper payroll records.

The bust was part of a larger investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s office into allegations that the “streetwise” Soho-based retail chain routinely underpaid workers and forced them to put in long hours without overtime pay. The YRB employees are primarily young Latino, Asian, and African American New Yorkers, as well as African and West Indian immigrants, who work as sales clerks, provide store security, and keep the stockrooms.

The AG’s office is investigating complaints that they were forced to work as much as 75 hours a week and while being paid as little as $5.25 an hour—well below the state minimum wage of $6.75 an hour.

Advocates with the Retail Action Project, which fights for the rights of retail workers, estimate the employees are now owed more than $1.5 million in back wages.

But maybe the Department of Health should get on the case, too.

Workers there complain they’ve been forced to contend with a serious rat infestation. According to them, highlights include:

  • Workers being forced to clean rat feces and rat nests from T-shirts before folding them.
  • Rats eating through layers of clothing in order to reach their holes.
  • Sightings of live and dead rats in the basement, including rats drinking from the staff toilet bowl.

Similar rat problems have been reported at YRB’s sister stores: Sloppy Joe Dirty Jane (483 Broadway), Boys and Chicks (392 Broadway), and the Yellow Rat Bastard in Queens.

To be fair, we’ve been told that rats are plaguing the basements of many stores on Broadway. The issue here, workers say, is owner Ishay’s lax response.

Ishay did not return press calls inquiring about why workers say there are so many rats in his stores and about the charges pending against him.

Maybe it’s just a rare case of truth in advertising.


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