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Know Your Rights
Source: New York State Senator Diane J. Savino
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Senator Savino Introduces Bill To Protect Workers from Wage Theft

New York State Senator Diane Savino, New York State Assembly Member Carl Heastie, and the Coalition to Prevent Wage Theft & Protect Responsible Businesses stood in front of the SOHO location of Scoop NYC, a business that illegally withheld half a million dollars in overtime pay from workers to announce the introduction of comprehensive state legislation to reform the New York State Labor Law (S.7050/A.10163). The coalition is comprised of low-income workers, not-for-profit organizations, civic legal organizations, organized labor, and small businesses.

Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York said, Wage Theft is rampant in New York in NYC alone, more than $18.4 million a week and nearly $1 billion each year is stolen from workers and their families by their employers. This money that would otherwise be spent on food, rent and school supplies. This bill will turn around the perverse economic incentives that currently encourage wage theft, undermine responsible businesses, and steal from our tax base.

They say that crime has gone down in New York. Tell that to the thousands of workers whose wages are stolen, everyday, by unscrupulous companies. Businesses that are good citizens and pay their employees, on time and exactly what is owed to them–as is required by law–should not be at a disadvantage to companies that illegally withholding wages from their workers. Wage theft not only hurts hard-working families who are trying to make ends meet in this difficult economy, but also hurts New York State taxpayers," said Senator Diane J. Savino.

Assemblyman Heastie added, Responsible businesses can’t compete when law-breaking employers are driving down pay rates. The Wage Theft Prevention Act is a comprehensive bill to change the perverse incentive by increasing penalties, increasing protection for workers who speak up, and adding tools that the Department of Labor and Courts can use to investigate cases and actually collect the money that workers are owed.

In New York City alone, more than 300,000 workers a week aren’t getting paid the minimum wage or overtime, losing millions in wages every week and many more share their plight across the state. They desperately need the stronger penalties and improved access to relief that are in this bill, said Annette Bernhardt, policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project and lead author of NELP’s recent report on workplace violations in New York.

Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the Working Families Party added, if you worked hard and played by the rules, New Yorkers once could expect a decent shot at middle-class life. Today, hard work is too rarely rewarded and the rules are routinely broken. This campaign is about restoring the basic bargain of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Freddy Castiblanco, the owner of a café in Queens said, The absence of effective tools for enforcement of New York’s labor laws works to the advantage of corrupt businessman. Responsible employers like me are at a competitive disadvantage compared to employers who underpay their workers and earn additional profits through the exploitation of their employees.

Modesta Turbio, an immigrant worker said, for six years, I have been working as a cashier at a shop in Brooklyn for less than the minimum wage. When I started, I was paid $5 per hour, and now I get $6.60. My boss knows he’s breaking the law, but he feels confident that he won’t ever have to pay up.