Wage Thieves, Watch Out!

Fantastic news from Make the Road New York: their hard work on behalf of victims of wage theft has paid off. By a margin of 2 to 1, the NYS Assembly passed the Wage Theft Prevention Act. Read their press release below.

From Make the Road New York

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Contact (English & Spanish):
Deborah Axt, 347.432.6254

By a Margin of More than Two-to-One, New York State Assembly Passes Historic Wage Theft Prevention Act

Groundbreaking Legislation, Already Passed by State Senate, Awaits Governor Paterson’s Signature

New York, November 30, 2010 – Assemblymember Carl Heastie, Senator Diane Savino, Make the Road New York, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, and supporters from labor, community and business laud the New York State Assembly for today’s passage of the Wage Theft Prevention Act. The WTPA was sponsored by Sentor Savino in the Senate and Assemblymember Heastie in the Assembly.

Governor Paterson issued a message of necessity Monday, ensuring that the bill could come up for a vote in the Assembly. It will now go back to his desk for a signature.

The Wage Theft Prevention Act will increase penalties and tighten enforcement of the New York laws protecting workers from wage theft. The National Employment Law Project estimates that more than $1 billion is stolen annually from NYC workers alone by unscrupulous employers. Advocates project that the WTPA will bring in approximately $50 million in increased savings and revenues to help the state government save valuable programs currently threatened by the fiscal crisis. The bill protects law abiding businesses from unfair competition with employers who reduce labor costs by stealing workers’ minimum wages and overtime pay.

Assembly Sponsor Carl Heastie said, “The Wage Theft Prevention Act is simply the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do by businesses, and really the right thing to do by workers across the state.”

“Stealing from employees not only hurts families, it hurts communities. It also makes honest employers less competitive. Businesses that are good citizens and pay their employees what is owed them and on time, as is required by law, should not be at a disadvantage to companies that are illegally withholding wages from their workers. These rogue employers not only steal wages from hard-working families who are doing all they can to make ends meet during these difficult economic times, but also steal much-needed funds from our city and state coffers,” said Senator Diane J. Savino, Senate sponsor of the bill “I applaud Speaker Silver, bill sponsor Assemblyman Heastie and the entire New York State Assembly for passing the Wage Theft Prevention Act; and look forward to Governor Paterson signing the bill into law,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “Wage theft is a real concern for retail workers across this city. Every day, the wages of too many workers are stolen by employers who choose to ignore minimum wage, overtime pay and other labor laws. The Wage Theft Prevention Action will increase penalties and strengthen enforcement against low road employers and give workers the protections they need and deserve.”

Indeed, National Employment Law Project studies demonstrate that wage theft is rampant in New York — in NYC alone (the only city for which data is available), unscrupulous employers steal more than $18.4 million a week, almost $1 billion each year, from their workers in the form of wage theft.

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.

Nieves Padilla of Make the Road New York added, “I have spent the last twelve years fighting with low wage workers to win back the wages that have been stolen from them. I’m so proud that today New York is on the verge of being a leader in the fight against wage theft. Now we’ll have the tools to make employers follow the law.”

Deborah Axt, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York, added, “We are here to thank the Assembly and the Senate for their ground-breaking work to combat wage theft. This is comprehensive reform at its best: it makes New York a leader in combating the worst forms of theft.”

On November 17, the New York City Council unanimously passed a Resolution calling on the State to Pass the WTPA This Year.

Make the Road New York (MRNY) is the largest participatory immigrant organization in New York City with more than 8,000 members. With vibrant community centers in the immigrant neighborhoods of Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; and Port Richmond, Staten Island; MRNY gives voice to thousands of immigrants and their families through community organizing, educates tomorrow’s leaders and provides services to support families. To find out more, please visit our website: