Working People Failed by Democratic Leadership of NYS Senate
New York Workers, Advocates, Faith Leaders & Unions Urge NYS to Stop Wage Theft
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sarah Ahn, Flushing Workers Center | firstname.lastname@example.org
JoAnn Lum, National Mobilization Against SweatShops | email@example.com
Carmela Huang, National Center for Law and Economic Justice | firstname.lastname@example.org
SWEAT Coalition | email@example.com
Though workers in New York have experienced decades of rampant wage theft which spiked during this pandemic, the New York State Senate failed to pass the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) bill. On the last day of the 2022 legislative session, the SWEAT bill, S2762, was denied a vote, despite the bill having been passed through the Senate and Assembly in the past.
“Wage theft runs rampant in this state,” said Carmela Huang, Senior Attorney at National Center for Law and Economic Justice. “What could possibly be wrong with making sure that workers are actually paid the wages that they have already earned and are owed? Or protecting law-abiding businesses from unfair competition from those who pad their bottom lines and profit from wage theft? Senate leadership is fully aware that wage theft has negative, cascading effects on our economy. They also know that the SWEAT bill is an effective tool for holding bad employers accountable, which is why it is so particularly disappointing that these leaders chose to prioritize the interests of law-breaking employers over working people and struggling businesses.”
The SWEAT Coalition (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) has been advocating and pressuring law makers since 2015 to protect workers suffering from wage theft. The SWEAT Coalition is a state-wide group of 111 grassroots organizations, workers centers, legal service providers and advocates fighting to ensure that New York’s workers are able to recover the wages they are owed by employers.
“Immigrant communities have experienced high rates of wage theft, with $15/hour minimum wage a joke to most. It is increasingly affecting non-immigrant workers and unionized workers,” said Sarah Ahn of Flushing Workers Center. “This is the direct result of the state government turning a blind eye to the problem for years, giving a green light for unscrupulous and law-breaking employers to exploit workers and drive law-abiding employers out of business. The Senate’s failure to right a wrong that has only gotten worse during the pandemic is shortsighted as it will only create a worse problem for the state to solve.”
The SWEAT bill seeks to make NYS’s labor and wage laws enforceable. The bill would strengthen laws in order to curb law-breaking employers from flouting NY state’s labor laws with tools provided to workers, their advocates, and government agencies that would root out wage theft. By making it more difficult for scofflaw employers to evade responsibility, the SWEAT legislation would level the playing field for law-abiding businesses, and will increase revenue for New York State by hundreds of millions of dollars by enabling the collection of proper payroll taxes and money owed to the Department of Labor.
“1 billion dollars is stolen from workers every year,” said Reverend Peter Cook of New York State Council of Churches. “The SWEAT Act, mirroring laws in other states, offers an effective way for workers to reclaim these wages by placing a lien on rogue employers who have incorporated wage theft into their business model.”
The passage of the SWEAT bill would allow New York to hold unscrupulous employers accountable and streamline accountability. New regulations would:
- Expand New York’s lien law to include all workers. Workers will be able to place a temporary lien on an employer’s property until their owed wages are paid. The DOL or NYS Attorney General can also file a wage lien on behalf of claimants who have filed complaints for wages owed.
- Allow a temporary hold on employers’ assets during litigation, under the supervision of a judge. Workers will be empowered to hold an employer’s property prior to the resolution of a case that claims unpaid wages.
- Hold the largest shareholders personally liable for wage theft. This enabled workers of non-publicly traded companies to hold the employers with the largest share of ownership personally liable for wage theft.