Pleasure Chest employees walk out demanding better wages and treatment

Stephon Johnson | 6/28/2018, midnight
Pleasure Chest workers were joined by a legislative ally in their fight for a better workplace.
Pleasure Chest Google Maps

Pleasure Chest workers were joined by a legislative ally in their fight for a better workplace.

This week, New York State Senate Brad Hoylman of Manhattan joined the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union-affiliated employees as they walked out of their jobs protesting the lack of fair treatment in the workplace. They were also protested in favor of better wages, security protections and procedures.

August Eckhardt, RWDSU member and Pleasure Chest employee, said that the protection of co-workers is paramount to their success.

“We work hard to ensure that Pleasure Chest is a space where everyone can feel safe,” said Eckhardt in a statement. “Now we're asking the community to support us in our fight for more protections on the job. Pleasure Chest management has refused to agree to a union contract with safe staffing levels. What’s more, the company is insisting that new workers in this often difficult and highly sensitive job start at minimum wage.”

“Advancing the rights of LGBTQ people means advancing the rights and protections of workers,” said added Hoylman in a statement. “Despite the progress we’ve made, LGBTQ individuals disproportionately find themselves in economically precarious situations, rendering them vulnerable to abuse and harassment.”

Because of the nature of its business—Pleasure Chest is an adult sex toy shop—the mostly female and LGBTQ staff state that they regularly face harassment and discriminatory behavior. According to employees, they’re consistently poorly staffed and aren’t given the proper resources to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.

Because of their employer not ensuring their rights and protections to their liking, Pleasure Chest workers walked out and picketed the business during the 2018 pride march.

“Without better safeguards, the whole staff is vulnerable to hateful verbal abuse and even violence” stated Eckhardt. “And without fair wages, we can’t support ourselves and our communities. We love the Pleasure Chest. We are merely asking for changes to improve security, as well a sustainable living wage that reflects our expertise in adult toys and sex education.”

Last year, in a unanimous vote, workers at Pleasure Chest locations around New York City voted to join RWDSU. After the vote, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum called the anti-union campaign against the workers “transphobic” something that other Pleasure Chest employees confirmed last year, citing the lack of care for gender identities during their employers’ anti-union campaign.

Pleasure Chest management hired Jackson Lewis and Labor Relations International, who are known as “union-busting” consultants. They were, allegedly, hired to try and keep anyone related to RWDSU from entering the workspace.

Hoylman said he looked forward to the day that Pleasure Chest workers wouldn’t have to resort to these tactics to win what they believe are basic needs.

“To promote the dignity and livelihood of our community, we must stand with workers in their fight for fair wages and equal treatment,” stated Hoylman. “It’s ironic that Pleasure Chest, which claims to be a safe space for LGBTQ individuals, has taken to something as profoundly un-LGBTQ as union-busting. Today, I stand fully behind RWDSU members in their fight for a fair contract.”