MANHATTAN — After five months of bitter protest from staff, Dylan Lauren’s luxury candy shop is starting to sweeten its management strategy, employees told DNAinfo New York.
"It was a big risk but we’ve accomplished a lot,” sales associate Iris Velasquez, 23, said of publicly speaking out against Dylan’s Candy Bar. “Overall the atmosphere has changed.”
Since August, several staff members of the shop at 1011 Third Ave. at East 60th Street have accused the management of deliberately cutting hours to keep them from having full-time schedules. They also demanded higher wages.
“While Dylan Lauren [the store’s owner] is the fifth wealthiest heiress in the world…most associates started at less than $10/hour,” reads their online petition. “In fact, at $13.99 per pound, a pound of bulk candy is worth more than our hourly pay.”
As the protests increased, so did the list of complaints.
Staff accused the candy shop of unsafe working conditions, serving moldy strawberries and exiling outspoken workers to the “Ooey Gooey” chocolate station in the basement.
Dylan’s attitude toward the criticism began to soften near the end of 2013, after one of the biggest protests outside the Upper East Side store, workers said.
“There have been significant safety improvements,” Velasquez said. “They put bar mats behind the bar to keep people from slipping. They’ve also cleared the exits that used to be blocked with boxes and merchandise. They installed a ladder for inventory staff. Before they would have to climb on the shelves and stand up on chairs.”
Other noteworthy changes are that the schedules now go out three weeks in advance instead of just a couple of days, and employees’ annual review and raise process — which used to come six months late — now happens on time, Velasquez said.
Despite the changes, Dylan hasn’t budged on the two original demands, 40-hour work weeks and higher wages, workers said.
“I was hired as a full-time worker," said Philip Armone, 27. “The most hours I’ve ever worked is 38. And that’s an outlier.”
Starting salary at the store is now $11 per hour, which is still less than a $13.99 pound of bulk candy, workers said.
Velasquez will continue to campaign for more hours and higher wages but applauded the company for starting to listen to employees.
“The management has been a lot more receptive of the staff,” she said. “Now there’s a suggestion box.”
Dylan's Candy Bar declined to comment.