New Immigrant Community Empowerment rallied with workers outside of Excellent Job Agency on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights on Tuesday on allegations that the business and businesses around the city cheat low-wage and immigrant workers.
“For years, the Queens community has been complaining about the predatory, fraudulent and substandard practices of local employment agencies,” Executive Director of NICE Valeria Treves said. “After doing an in-depth study on this issue and getting the word out, we found out that this problem is very widespread; not only on Roosevelt Avenue but also across the city and across the state. We have convened the Justice for Job Seekers coalition to bring this abuse to an end.”
A dozen or so activists and community members who claim to have been cheated by Excellent Employment Agency attended.
“I went to look for work and all I found was a hoax,” Rosa Pauta, a NICE member and job seeker, said. “I was sent to an address for a drycleaners, where the owner told me they had not asked people to work. I was very disheartened because I had to walk there for nothing.”
According to a letter sent to Rodrigo Ruiz, owner of the agency, the company does not return job seekers their advance fee when it has not placed them in a job, sends job seekers to businesses that are not soliciting workers and places job seekers in positions that do not comply with New York and federal labor laws.
The activists report Excellent Employment Agency to have four complaints filed against them in 2011 and 2012. According to the press release, all the complaints resulted in a cash refund.
United Employment Agency, also owned by Ruiz, had 10 complaints in the past fouryears filed.
Despite the claims made against the company, Ruiz said he has done nothing wrong.
“I am a legal business,” he said after the protest. “I have been around for five years, so if I was doing something illegal, don’t you think I would have been shut down by now?”
Ruiz said he placed calls to the protesters when he received the letter but no one answered. He also claimed that the people who participated in the rally are just disgruntled job seekers.
“Eighty-five to 90 percent of my customers are very happy,” he said. “There is 10 percent of people who don’t want to go to a job because they say it’s too far or they don’t like the position, so they say I’m cheating them.”
Ruiz recalled watching the news the night of the rally and seeing a woman who came to his agency several days ago.
“She cried and cried because I told her I didn’t have any positions for her,” he said. “I felt badly for her but I didn’t charge her any money for sitting with me because I had nothing for her. We only charge $125 once if we have job openings. We don’t take the money if there are no jobs.”
Ruiz claims the protest disrupted business and resulted in one of his signs being torn down, though it could not be verified if the protesters violated Ruiz’s property.