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The Plain Dealer, Activists demand that InkStop pay its workers' overdue wages

pdf article / full article from cleveland.com

By Janet Cho, The Plain Dealer

October 28, 2009, 5:32PM

LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- Nearly a month after retailer InkStop Inc. laid off all of its workers, a consortium of labor, faith-based and community social justice groups held a protest to demand that InkStop give their 500-some workers their overdue paychecks.

"We are here to demand that (InkStop) CEO Dirk Kettlewell do the right thing and pay his employees now," said Debbie Kline of Cleveland Jobs with Justice, which organized Wednesday
morning's demonstration in front of the closed InkStop store at Lakewood City Center.

The Lakewood store is among 152 the Warrensville Heights company operated in 14 states in its heydey before abruptly shutting down on Oct. 1. The company notified employees via fax, e-mail and phone call that they had lost their jobs and were not getting their final paychecks.

"A crime has been committed in my city," said Lakewood City Councilwoman Nickie Antonio. She said company officials stole their workers' wages by not giving them their final paycheck and that they should be "found, arrested, convicted and thrown in jail."

She recalled how excited the city was when InkStop moved into the Lakewood shopping center because it was a locally owned company that seemed to be doing so well. Regardless of economic pressures, she said InkStop had no reason to treat its workers so outrageously.

"I am so disappointed," she said.

As the Bread and Puppet Theater Group from Vermont performed songs and skits ridiculing the company's officers and board of directors, Jobs With Justice activists chanted: "Pay up! Pay up!"

"We've come out here to demand that these employees not be treated like cash registers, to be abandoned when things go wrong," said the Rev. Bob Strommen, a retired clergyman from the Western Reserve Association of the United Church of Christ.

"This is wage theft. We see this kind of thing every single day, unfortunately," said Jason Bristol, a lawyer with Cohen Rosenthal & Kramer LLP who has filed a federal lawsuit against InkStop and its cofounders, Dirk and Dawn Kettlewell.

Bristol and Anthony Lazzaro of the Lazzaro Law Firm LLC are representing more than 200 former InkStop employees.

Later, everyone marched over to the store, taped an "X" over the front windows with yellow caution tape, and drew a chalk outline on the sidewalk of a figure it labeled "Jobs."

Bystander Alice Bocchicchio of AB Plumbing Services LLC, who used to buy all her office supplies from Inkstop, said: "I'm just appalled to have given my business to someone who would do that."

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