Advocates for immigrants and the poor want the state to crack down on a type of robbery rampant in New York: wage theft.
We stand with them because too many companies have gotten away with stiffing employees of the fruits of their hard-earned labor.
The National Employment Law Project estimates more than 317,000 New Yorkers are cheated out of pay, to the tune of $18.4 million a week.
Ripping off low-income workers is only a third of the offense. In the process, employers who run roughshod over the law also deprive the city and state of much-needed tax revenue and put law-abiding employers at an unfair disadvantage.
The way to end this scourge is to convince the bad actors that it’s not worth the risk to cheat.
Proposed legislation** in Albany, sponsored by Staten Island state Sen. Diane Savino and Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, would toughen penalties against chiseling employers who ignore minimum-wage laws, cheat workers out of overtime and otherwise flout basic labor protections.
Employers would have to pay back wages, with interest, and face fines up to double that amount. The worst scofflaws would be hit with felony charges and prison time.
Not much good gets done in Albany these days – understatement of the year – but this is one bill that could help thousands of people who need government on their side. It should swiftly pass, and then the Labor Department should get to work putting teeth in the enforcement.
An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. What’s more American than that?
**Make the Road New York drafted this legislation and is leading the coalition of groups pushing for its passage.