The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act

On Thanksgiving day we give thanks to all of you who stand in solidarity with low-wage workers. In the following weeks we could give thanks to our legislators in Albany for moving to make law the Wage Theft Prevention Act.

Why do many employers routinely steal wages from their workers? If they can get away with it, why not? The worst that can happen to them is to be made to pay the back wages they owe. That is why the Wage Theft Prevention Act is so important and in NY we are about to pass this piece of legislation that can bring justice to thousands of workers.

Please read the following article by Annette Bernhardt, policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project, and lead author of “Working Without Laws: A Survey of Employment and Labor Law Violations in New York City.”

“With legislators coming back to Albany next week to plug the state’s budget hole, there’s an unfinished piece of business that — with one simple vote — could pump millions of dollars into our local communities without costing the state a dime. A bill to fight wage theft has passed both houses. All that’s needed is for the Assembly to vote on the Senate’s version and send it to the governor to sign in time for the holidays.

With this one vote, we’d finally have the strong tools to go after the wage theft crisis that is hurting communities across the state. In New York City alone, a study by the National Employment Law Project earlier this year found that 21 percent of low-wage workers are paid less than the minimum wage, 77 percent weren’t paid time-and-a-half when they worked overtime, and 69 percent didn’t receive any pay at all when they came in early or stayed late after their shift.

At the Workers’ Center we see this often. The vendor who exploited workers at a food concession at the NY State Fair seems to have gotten only a “slap in the wrist” by the federal government for defrauding guest workers from Mexico:

“Cotton Candy and slavery at the State Fair”

The New York wage theft prevention act will ensure that employers think twice before engaging in wage theft:

The bill strengthens incentives for employers to comply with the wage and hour regulations already on the books by stiffening penalties for cheating employees out of wages, encouraging workers to come forward, and providing new avenues for investigating and prosecuting wage theft cases – and ensuring violators will pay up. The need for this legislation is vividly highlighted byresearch revealing that in New York City alone, an estimated 586,000 low-wage workers a year see a portion of their pay stolen by employers, losing an aggregate $18.4 million every week as a result.

This urgently needed to ensure justice for workers whose money is stolen everyday in New York state.