En Español Know Your Rights
Source: DNAinfo
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Wage Theft Bill Introduced in SoHo to Help Workers Collect Lost Pay

 

SOHO —
Retail workers, activists and politicians turned out to announce the
introduction of a new bill that could protect local workers from losing millions
of dollars in unpaid wages.

State Sen.
Diane Savino and Assemblyman Carl Heastie announced the Wage Theft Prevention
Act in SoHo on Friday, which will stiffen
penalties and heighten enforcement for companies that illegally withhold or
steal wages from their employees. The bill was introduced in the Senate earlier
this week.

“Mugging
employees out of pay doesn’t only hurt families, it hurts communities,” Sen.
Savino said in front of a crowd waving signs supporting worker’s rights. “It
makes scrupulous employees less competitive.”

The
announcement took place in front of Scoop NYC at 475 Broadway, which is being
sued by employees for half a million dollars in unpaid overtime. Last month,
employees from the chain that sells top-designer brands rallied in front of Greenwich Village’s Shoe Mania, which is also being sued
by workers for $3 million in unpaid wages.

Workers
from Mystique Boutique were also at the Friday rally, demanding $2 million in
back wages as part of another lawsuit.

Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of legal advocacy group Makethe Road New York, which is supporting the bill,
explained that more than $18.4 million a week and nearly $1 billion each year
is taken from New York City’s
workers.

“This money that would otherwise be
spent on food, rent and school supplies,” Archila
said at the event. “This bill will turn around the perverse
economic incentives that currently encourage wage theft, undermine responsible
businesses and steal from our tax base.”

Assemblyman
Heastie added: “This bill isn’t anti-business. It’s anti-bad business.”

Joseph
Bavouce, who worked for six years at Scoop NYC’s SoHo
store, told DNAinfo at the event that the company paid him a flat rate but
forced him to work hours of overtime that he was never compensated for.

“I worked
here to send money home to my family, but they treated us badly,” said Bavouce,
whose wife and children live in Cameroon.
“I hope a bill is passed so this doesn’t happen any more.”

Carolina
Ferreyra, 23, who worked at a Mystique Boutique on Canal Street, was given a raise to $8.15
an hour when she received a promotion to be the store’s manager. However, she
said she did not receive overtime pay beyond her 40 hours a week.

“I couldn’t
understand how I was working more than 60 hours a week but not making enough
money to go to school,” Ferreyra said. “I didn’t know any better at the time.”

Owners at
Shoe Mania, Scoop NYC and Mystique Boutique did not return calls for comment.