Author Archives: Rebecca Fuentes

Work for Tips? Testify to End Tipped Wage

The Workers’ Center of Central NY is excited to hear of the NYS Dept of Labor Wage Board Hearings across New York on potentially ELIMINATING the sub-minimum wage for those who work for tips throughout the State.

The proposal would not eliminate tipping itself, rather the tipped wage.

One of the first hearings will be held in Syracuse on Monday, April 30th, at 10 a.m. [A rally and news conference will begin at 8:45 a.m.] The WCCNY along with the Tompkins County Workers Center intends to turn out in force to this hearing, ESPECIALLY with workers who presently receive the tipped minimum wage, as well as with workers who PREVIOUSLY have worked in a tipped profession. Believe us: if we and you don’t testify, industry sure will.

Read more about why the restaurant industry’s two-tiered wage system is broken. From the One Fair Wage Campaign:

Due to the lobbying power of the National Restaurant Association and Fortune 500 restaurant corporations, the restaurant industry is one of the only industries that gets away, in 43 states, with not paying the great majority of people who work in restaurants — servers, bussers, hosts, bartenders — at least the minimum wage.

  • Since the restaurant industry does not pay its servers the minimum wage, servers are forced to rely on tips as their wage. Their employer gives them as little as $2.13 an hour (the federal tipped minimum wage since 1991), and then takes out taxes. This leaves them with $0 paychecks, obviously insufficient to pay rent or put food on the table for their families.
  • Although employers are legally required to “top off” the pay of a person who works for tips if don’t add up to at least the minimum wage, enforcement is so lax and disorganized that wage theft has reached epidemic levels.
  • The restaurant industry includes 7 of the 10 lowest paying jobs in the country. In fact, people who work in the industry are twice as likely to need food stamps than the rest of the US workforce, and three times as likely to live in poverty.
  • Seventy percent of people who work in the restaurant industry are women. Since a living base wage is not guaranteed, and women are instead forced to depend on tips, they frequently have to put up with sexual harassment from customers, co-workers, and management. The EEOC has targeted the restaurant industry as the single largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with a rate FIVE TIMES higher than any other industry.

Please send us an email at if you would like to take part in the hearing. Facebook event page here
You can also call 315-218-5708

For other hearings dates and locations click here .



Mobilization to Batavia Detention Center

“We Will Not Be Caged, Immigrant Women Speak Out!”

Please join the WCCNY and New York Immigration Coalition on Wednesday, March 28th at 6:30 am at 2013 E Genesee st. Syracuse ,  as we depart  to Batavia Detention Center in Upstate New York. This request to mobilize is URGENT!

Our Upstate brothers and sisters NEED YOU to come with us to support one of our community members who is being targeted for deportation! Please join us to support Arely, a member of our upstate community and a mother of three U.S citizen kids. She was turned over to Border Patrol by the Troopers in 2013 because she and her husband did not have a licence when driving to Ithaca, NY. Despite checking in with ICE for years, recently ICE has changed her phone check in to in person and now her most recent check in scheduled for 9:00 AM on Wednesday, March 28th at Batavia Detention Center.

Please stand with us to protect this fierce advocate and community leader and demand that the detention & deportation machine stop ripping families, mothers and children apart!
What: Rally Outside Batavia Federal Detention Center
Who:  NYIC, Worker Justice Center, and Worker Center CNY
Bring together our members from across the state to support & Highlight Women & Mothers facing deportation in Upstate NY.
Support a member of the Worker Center of CNY whose check-in was moved from Syracuse to Batavia on that day.
Call attention to the expansion of Batavia to now detain Women.

More information on the Facebook event page

We Will Keep Pushing To Be Treated Like Human Beings!

Worker’s Center of CNY – Contact: Rebecca Fuentes 315.657.6799

Worker Justice Center of NY – Contact: Carly Fox 518.500.9409


Court Rules Against Organizing Rights for Farmworkers, Advocates Plan Appeal


January 16, 2018 – The Albany County Supreme Court today dismissed a challenge to a Jim Crow-era state law that denies farmworkers the right to organize without fear of retaliation. Plaintiffs Crispin Hernandez, the Workers’ Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York, who are represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, plan to appeal the decision.

Under the New York Constitution, all workers have a right to organize and collectively bargain. Yet a more than 80-year-old law known as the Employment Relations Act includes a carve-out from these protections for farmworkers. The law reflects the segregationist politics of the Depression Era during which it was passed, when farmworkers were predominantly black.

Plaintiff Crispin Hernandez was fired from one of New York’s largest dairies, Marks Farms LLC in Lowville, after his employer saw him meeting with coworkers and an organizer to discuss workplace conditions. The meeting took place after work hours and in a worker’s personal residence. Hernandez had been working 12-hour shifts six days a week at Mark’s Farms since he was a teenager, but he lost both his job and his home.

When the plaintiffs filed suit in May of 2016, both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman publicly agreed that the excluding farmworkers from the right to organize conflicts with the state constitution. Both declined to defend the lawsuit in court. In response, the New York Farm Bureau requested that the court allow it to intervene to defend the law as a party in the case. The plaintiffs and the NYCLU did not object to the Farm Bureau’s motion to intervene, allowing the matter to be resolved in the state courts.

“I am disappointed with today’s decision, but we will continue fighting for a victory,” said plaintiff Crispin Hernandez. “With the help of God and all of our supporters, we will change the conditions that we deal with as farmworkers and we will keep pushing to be treated like human beings.”

“It’s a shame that the judge has decided to continue the Jim Crow era exclusion of Farmworkers from the protected right to organize,” said Rebecca Fuentes, lead organizer at the Workers’ Center of Central New York, a plaintiff in the case. “Today’s decision is a slap in the face for workers like Crispin Hernandez who have to live under threat and intimidation from employers and law enforcement.”

Farming is a multi-billion-dollar industry in New York, yet farmworkers often earn wages well below the poverty level. Many live in overcrowded labor camps with sweatshop-like conditions, contending with infestations of rats, cockroaches and bed bugs, and no regular access to transportation. Farmworkers are excluded from workplace protections afforded to nearly all other workers, including a day of rest, overtime pay, disability insurance and the right to organize without retaliation.

Farmworkers operate dangerous machinery at grueling rates and use toxic chemicals, often without enough training. Their fatality rate is 20 times that of the average worker in New York. Some report working 95 hours a week. Most are racial minorities who do not speak English, and as many as 75 percent are undocumented, a fact supervisors use to intimidate them into silence.

“While we are disappointed with Judge McNally’s ruling today, we are steadfast in our resolve to continue our fight through the courts,” said Carly Fox, senior worker Rights Advocate at the Worker Justice Center of New York, a plaintiff in the case. “We know that, ultimately, we stand on the side of justice and we won’t stop until we win, simply because the workers we serve are depending on it. When we are out in the field, hearing from farmworkers about the dangerous conditions on farms, depressed wages, grueling hours and unsanitary and sub-standard employer-provided housing, we know that the best resource workers have is their unity. The Worker Justice Center of New York will fight for equality for farmworkers until it is won.”

“Because of an outdated law, the people we rely on for the food in our kitchens are condemned to poverty, abuse and even death,” said NYCLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel on the case Erin Beth Harrist. “We will appeal this ruling and continue to fight this law, which violates our constitution and our state’s commitment to human rights.”

“We will not rest until farmworkers are free to organize and have a voice in their working conditions,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Today’s decision will not deter us from making sure that farmworkers enjoy the same basic rights as every other hardworking New Yorker.”

In addition to Harrist, NYCLU staff on the case include Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg, associate legal director Christopher Dunn, staff attorney Jordan Wells, staff attorney Aadhithi Padmanabhan, and paralegal Andrea Barrientos.

Jail Ministry reverses its promise to immigrant farmworkers

A couple of weeks ago Jail Ministry founder Bill Cuddy announced he will let immigrant farmworkers stay indefinitely at Slocum House after the Radical Education Collective and Black Lives Matter joined the Workers’ Center in a rally to stop the eviction of immigrant farmworkers from the house.

The rally was organized after Jail ministry’s director Keith Cieplicki and founder Bill Cuddy refused to come to an agreement  about hospitality at Slocum House. The house had been offered to provide hospitality and sanctuary to immigrant workers at the beginning of 2017 but 5 months later we were told to leave. Workers living at the house received an eviction as we found out the house had been offered to Andre Lunetta from A Tiny Home for Good to be used for offices.

At a time when immigrants are under attack it is disappointing to see the lack of humanity towards the most vulnerable. We understand people with resources and power will always disappoint us, those are the bosses, the managers, the landlords, those who decide to profit out of exploitation and poverty but we  expect more from those who call themselves people of faith. Bill Cuddy has years of social justice in Central NY, but this time he has committed a terrible injustice in an effort to help his friends.

ATHFG has informed us they do not have any responsibility toward the immigrant farmworkers currently living at the house, but since their cause is homelessness they will allow the workers to stay for one year after they become the owners of the house. They also informed us that they “can’t refuse to take the house.”

ATHFG already owns a house that was also donated to them which, according to their website, is already used for offices. We hope ATHFG will reconsider their position and, at the very least, allow immigrant farmworkers to continue to have a space for temporary housing and sanctuary indefinitely. To who much is given, much is expected from.

Collective action and solidarity wins!

Thank you to all who came out to show support for Dolores and Jose on Wednesday, March 15. The weather was extremely cold and still we had a good show of solidarity in Syracuse and in Batavia. So many people signed the statement of support, wrote letters and showed up to the rallies. Dolores got an extension and has to go back to immigration court in 60 days, this means she is still at risk of deportation but with her courage, all of the community support and her lawyer we will beat back the ICE attack. We need leaders like Dolores who are speaking up for workers’ dignity and respect.

Gracias a todos!! Please continue to sign and share the statement of support here.

Here is some of the media coverage in Telemundo.


We are with Dolores! Todos con Dolores!

Rally to End Deportations – Still a Go in Syracuse!

We have been monitoring the courts and so far it looks like the courts are still open tomorrow so we are still a go for the Rally to End Deportations! tomorrow at 9:00am. We are going to come out strong tomorrow for Dolores and all others fighting against this racist, anti-immigrant system!! Si se puede! Rally & March to End Deportations!

Wed. March 15th at 9:00 am
Federal Building – 100 S. Clinton Street Syracuse, NY 13210
(Then marching to Perseverance Park on S. Salina Street)
Check out the Facebook event here.

Workers’ Center board member, mother, farmworker, and community activist Dolores Bustamente is facing a difficult immigration court date in Batavia on Wednesday March 15th. We are concerned she could be detained and separated from her family and her community. For many years, Dolores has been a farmworker in the Sodus area and she serves on the board of the national organization Alianza de Mujeres Campesinas and local community organizations Mujeres Divinas and the Workers’ Center of CNY. We need to stand with her just like she has done for immigrant and workers’ rights in our community.

CNY at Work! Call for Photos

Moe, Tin and Kaitlyn. Photo by Jonathan Trier. Midstate Spring, Syracuse.

In honor of ArtRage’s Gallery upcoming exhibition At All Costs: Photographs of American Workers by Earl Dotter,
ArtRage Gallery is calling for workers of CNY to send their photos.

They can be pictures of your co-workers or of yourselves at work. Whether you work on your feet, behind a desk or on the road we would love for you to be included in our photo collection.

Email your photo to (Max 2M, one photo per person). Include the name of the person in the photo, the photographers’ name, the name of the employer/workplace and city. (If you would like to only include first names, no problem!) Examples above: Moe. Photo by Jonathan Trier. Midstate Spring, Syracuse; Tin. Photo by Jonathan Trier. Midstate Spring, Syracuse: Kaitlyn. Photo by Jonathan Trier. Midstate Spring, Syracuse.

Tips for taking your photo:

Take a selfie or have a co-worker snap your photo.
Either posed or candid photos are great.
Take your photo doing your favorite or your least favorite part of your job.
Try to get an interesting shot that shows some of your working environment.
Experiment with different angles and send the photo that tells the best story.

What will we do with your photo?
The photos will be included in an ArtRage Gallery Facebook album. Select photos will be printed and included in a window display at ArtRage Gallery during Earl Dotter’s exhibition throughout May 2017. Read more about the exhibition and join us for the opening reception on Saturday, April 8 from 7-9pm at ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave., Syracuse, NY 13203. Your photos will go up in May.

Note: You must be 18 years or older to be included in the collection. Help us spread the word! Pass this along to friends and family….know anyone with an unusual job? Make sure they send in a photo.

Green Light NY: Driving Together statewide launch in Albany

Press conference in Albany, NY for the launch of “Green Light NY: Driving Together.”

On Tuesday, January 31 we participated in the official launch of our campaign “Green Light NY: Driving Together.” We joined immigrants, organizers, advocates and supporters from all of New York to tell the world we are organizing to have access  to driver licenses for all in New York. Here is the press release with more information about our coalition and a quote from our member Yobani Bravo, who represented the WCCNY.

Broad Coalition of Elected Officials and Advocates Unveil Analysis of Granting Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented New Yorkers
New Reports by New York City Comptroller Stringer and Fiscal Policy Institute Show Expanding Driver’s Licenses Would Benefit All New Yorkers

Policy Would Increase Economic Mobility, Improve Road Safety, and More than Pay for Itself

Coalition of Leaders and Advocates Led by New York Immigration Coalition Kicks Off “Green Light NY: Driving Together” Campaign to Push Expansion of Access to Driver’s Licenses

The New York Immigration Coalition, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, the Fiscal Policy Institute, elected officials and immigration advocates today released new analyses of the fiscal costs and benefits of expanding access to driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers, without regard to immigration status, and the launch of a new campaign announced, Green Light NY: Driving Together. The announcement of the campaign comes from advocates and elected officials as Comptroller Stringer and the Fiscal Policy Institute release comprehensive reports highlighting the significant social and economic benefits of extending driving privileges to undocumented immigrants. The analyses found that the policy change would help support immigrant families by expanding job opportunities, while modestly lowering insurance premiums for all state drivers and improving public safety on roadways, with the fiscal costs of implementing the proposal more than offset by added revenues. The Comptroller’s report documented these findings for New York City, while the report from the Fiscal Policy Institute notes the impact of these benefits across upstate New York.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya is preparing to introduce a new bill in the Assembly that would expand driver’s license privileges to undocumented immigrants living in New York State. The case in support of the new legislation is bolstered by the findings of the dual reports, which highlight benefits both in New York City and in Upstate New York. With the recent executive actions on immigration signed by President Trump, there is an additional imperative to allow undocumented immigrants the choice to receive a license. The new bill will require data not be stored in perpetuity and that any request for this information by an outside party be accompanied by a judicial warrant. Comprehensive legislation codifying the expansion of driving privileges will be formally proposed in the coming weeks.

According to Comptroller Stringer’s report, there are approximately 570,000 undocumented New Yorkers living across the five boroughs. These undocumented residents already contribute to the tax base in the City and State, but because they cannot legally drive, they are more restricted in their job prospects, face longer commutes which can limit parents’ time with their children, and live in fear of deportation.

“The time is right for our state to make this change. When backwards rhetoric and backwards policymaking are pouring out of Washington, this is a forward-looking proposal for New York State to meaningfully empower communities that need our support. Granting licenses is not just a statement of our values – it’s practical because it makes our roads safer, brings immigrants out of the shadows, and saves everyone money,” Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “Implementing this proposal will cement our legacy as a City and a State that welcomes immigrants. It is, simply, the right thing to do.”

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said, “In a time when communities are fearful about the hostile anti-immigrant climate being created by the federal government, it is more important than ever to ensure our state supports the immigrant communities that make New York strong. By expanding driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status, our campaign can improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, ensure that everyone can be properly licensed and certified with an inspected and insured vehicle, and will drop insurance premiums for everyone and result in increased revenue for the state. By expanding driver’s licenses to all, the State will be enhancing public safety, providing a strong avenue to inclusion for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, and boosting economic growth, an overall win for all.”

“Expanding access to driver’s licenses would be a big improvement in the lives of some of the hardest-working and hardest-pressed New Yorkers,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative. “The policy will pay for itself, and it will bring some improvements in the lives of everyone else—from slightly lower auto insurance rates to a modest boost in the local economy to higher tax revenues to county and state governments and a little added to the state’s public transportation authorities as well.”

“With President Trump’s relentless attacks on immigrant communities, it is more important than ever before to make it clear that New York is a state which welcomes immigrants, and a state where immigrant families can succeed. Outside of cities with mass transportation, undocumented immigrants are at a serious disadvantage without driver’s licenses, making simple tasks like picking up groceries, picking up a child from school or going to work a struggle. I’m proud to announce that I’ve introduced legislation that would finally allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for a driver’s license. It is time to take a stand, say that bigotry is not welcome in New York, and remove the needless roadblocks immigrants face so they can provide for their families,” said Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya.

Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, which has 20,000 immigrant members in Long Island and New York City, said: “As Donald Trump pursues every available avenue to terrorize immigrant and refugee communities, New York State must step up and become a safe haven. The state currently prevents hundreds of thousands of otherwise-qualified New Yorkers from obtaining a license because of their immigration status. This puts many immigrants—who, in many parts of the state like Long Island and the Hudson Valley, need to drive to get to work, drop kids at school, or get to a doctor’s office—at risk of traffic stops that could lead to arrest and deportation. Given President Trump’s vow to tear apart immigrant families that have had any contact with law enforcement, New York urgently needs to protect its immigrant community by restoring access to drivers’ licenses to all.”

Rey Morales, an Orange County Member with Community Voices Heard who would benefit from accessing a driver’s license stated, “I feel intimidated by the politics of the new administration. I feel that all that is happening affects us and impedes our advancement on our path. I believe the fight will be stronger now and we need to reinvent our plans and strategy. We must continue to fight for licenses in NY because that way we will be better protected and we can protect our families. A license is a shield against racism and discrimination.”

Yobani Bravo, Member, Workers’ Center of Central New York who would also benefit from acquiring a driver’s license, “It is very important for us to have a driver’s license so we can get to our work safely and we can respond to emergencies; when a cop stops you, that is the first thing they ask you, and when we don’t show it, we can get into trouble. It is also important because if we have a driver’s license makes everybody else more safe. It is not fair that we contribute to this country so much and we don’t have the right to driver’s license. This campaign will show people how many of us are unable to drive, but also how any of us are fighting for that right.”

Luis Jiménez, member, Alianza Agrícola spoke about how a driver’s license would change his livelihood, “The power of freedom of movement is a need and not a privilege. We all need to be able to move freely without fear. It is not a luxury that we want – it is something that require to live a life without fear. As a father raising children who were born here, I want them to enjoy the same rights and privileges as everyone else. It is sad to tell them, I can’t take you to basketball practice. I can’t take you here or there. So for that reason we are fighting and asking for a change. We want more respect for the immigrant community and the opportunity for equal rights in New York because we are human beings and we work hard and contribute to the New York economy.”

“When I was a child, my undocumented mother risked deportation every day driving me to school so I could receive the education I was entitled too,” said Mayra Hidalgo Salazar, executive director, Hudson Valley Community Coalition. “No mother should have to go through that. Equal access to a drivers’ license will not only keep our roads safer but it will help ensure families stay together in the face of increasing risk. While immigrants are under attack from the federal government, New York State must do everything in its power to protect ALL its residents and provide immigrants the resources and tools needed for them to thrive. A driver’s license is one step closer in the right direction.”

“For farmworkers and other isolated immigrant workers living in rural communities throughout Upstate New York, having a driver’s license is absolutely essential to ensuring access to basic necessities,” said Lewis O. Papenfuse, executive director, Worker Justice of New York. “When workers must rely on employers to purchase their groceries or provide them with rides to the doctor, their bosses gain control over virtually all aspects of their lives. As an organization that aims to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation and abuse, we see driver’s license access as an important workers’ rights and human rights issue.”

Nikeeta Slade, organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York said, “Now, more than ever, we need to fight and push for policies that show that immigrants, regardless of their status, are welcomed here and important members of our community. Fighting for drivers licenses for all is one important way immigrant worker members of the Workers’ Center of CNY have been doing this important work.”

According to the Comptroller’s report, currently 12 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico grant drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. Implementing the policy would allow 150,000 undocumented immigrants in New York City to receive licenses and provide the following benefits:

Increased Economic Mobility for Families — The ability to legally drive will provide these New Yorkers with greater access to higher paying jobs, as well as strengthen families by making it easier for parents to drive their children to and from school.
Increased Revenues Would Offset Program Costs — Up to $9.6 million in driver’s license fees would be gained by New York State. An additional $1.3 million would go to the MTA in license fees.
Higher Auto Industry Sales — Sales in the auto industry would increase by 2.7%, generating tens of millions of new dollars for the state in registration and title fees, as well as vehicle and gasoline sales taxes.
Lower Auto Insurance Premiums — According to a recent study, preventing immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses increases annual insurance expenditures for licensed drivers by $17.22 per person. Changing New York State policy would deliver savings to New York City’s 3.6 million licensed drivers in future years.
Improvements in Public Safety — When all drivers learn the rules of the road and purchase insurance policies, the broader public benefits.
According to the Fiscal Policy Institute’s report, revenues from expanding access to driver’s licenses, which would increase the number of people buying cars and purchasing licensing fees, would more than cover expenses to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The report details how greater access to driver’s licenses would create additional revenues for public transportation authorities and especially benefit state and county governments.

FPI’s report also finds that from Long Island to the Lower Hudson Valley to Western New York – all areas where cars are more necessary to own to access jobs and participate in the economy – the benefits of expanding driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants would help improve economic conditions for undocumented immigrants, be a net positive for the local economy, and would even add some to local budgets and the upstate regional transit authorities. Collectively, undocumented residents already pay about $1.1 billion in state and local taxes annually.

Key findings from the Fiscal Policy Institute on new revenues from expanding driver’s licenses in upstate New York include:

265,000 people who would get driver’s licenses within three years, including 51,000 on Long Island, 53,000 in the Hudson Valley, and 11,000 in Northern and Western New York.
$57 million in combined annual government revenues, plus $26 million more in one-time revenues.
$28 million in annual revenues to New York State, $21 million to county governments, $8.6 million to the MTA (in addition to another $2.2 million in one-time revenue), and $288,000 to upstate mass transportation authorities.
Further detail about upstate metro areas is available in the report.

In order to realize these benefits, Comptroller Stringer, Assemblyman Moya, the New York Immigration Coalition and coalition partners recommend that New York State adopt legislation that would allow all immigrants to obtain licenses and launch a targeted public awareness campaign to educate eligible immigrants about the program.

“Hard-working families deserve a chance to realize the American Dream,” said Comptroller Stringer. “Granting driver’s licenses is an important step forward for the New Yorkers who contribute so much to our City.”

To see the Comptroller’s full report, click here.

To view the full report from the Fiscal Policy Institute, click here.

Workers Memorial Day, April 28

The Central New York Council on Occupational Safety & Health (CNYCOSH) & the Central New York Occupational Health Clinical Center (CNYOHCC) hosted  a Workers Memorial Luncheon on April 28, 2011  at Pensabene’s Casa Grande 135 State Fair Blvd. Syracuse New York.

The  luncheon was  a memorial to all workers who have lost their lives while working in their occupations in the year of 2010-2011. Guest Speakers included Dr. M. Lax from CNYOHCC, Dr. D. Nave of the Syracuse Labor Council and Ms. Ann Marie Taliercio of the New York State Labor – Hazard and Abatement Board.

Watch Dr. Michael Lax speak  about solidarity among all workers and listen to  Robert Huckl.e of the OHCC, play his harmonica in a beautiful rendition of “Amazing grace”.