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UNION PRESIDENT & SEN. RAMOS PUSH WAGE THEFT BILL LEGISLATION THROUGH NEW YORK
U.S. DEPT OF LABOR ESTIMATES APPROX $1 BILLION IN WAGES ARE STOLEN IN NEW YOUR ANNUALLY.
ALBANY, NY- A bill, Legislation S2766/A3350, that passed the assembly is now on its way through the New York State Senate. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jessica Ramos, looks to ensure that responsibility and oversight will be put on prime contract holders such as a General Contractor when issues arise with unfair labor practices, wage theft, and unsafe working conditions. The hope is that General Contractors could foot the bill for subcontractors unfair practices and wage theft that are reported giving workers recourse when unable to collect from smaller under-capitalized sub-contractors.
The New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), which works to improve working conditions, lives and pay for hardworking immigrants and their families, is an organization that has strong ties and support for this bill. NICE tracks wage theft cases in New York and has stated in an article, here, that they recorded over 700 reports of wage theft cases that range from simple incidents to more extreme and exuberant.
Wage Theft comes in many different forms and packages:
- Taking advantage of a initial labor agreement when someone is in desperate need of work or food can be wage theft.
- Falsifying certified payrolls and amounts paid to employees bypassing State labor laws and taking advantage of immigrants without legal papers is wage theft.
- Day Rates. Day Rates are flat pay day rates for which the employee simply gets a cash payment each day. No social security, medicare or anything else taken out or contributed.
- Unfair working conditions such as working over 8 hours or more than 40 hours a week without proper overtime pay is wage theft.
- Safety conditions and other loss of protections present wage theft as well.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over $1 billion in wages were stolen per-pandemic annually. Groups like NICE and Union presidents are strong supporters of this Bill. Union Presidents have been out in full vocal force pushing for this bill stating that Union Workers are protected.
“Unfortunately, often times the most vulnerable workers are exploited the most,” he said. “This is unacceptable and it’s really unscrupulous to do this and when they try to reclaim their wages or their benefits, they are very unsuccessful.” At issue is wage theft, which has disproportionately affected vulnerable workers who are not represented by a union, Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera stated. The New York State Business Council, said however, the measure shifts blame from bad actors in construction to prime contractors when enforcement is best left to the Department of Labor and law enforcement.
Having contractors become defendants in wage theft cases will make it more costly to do business in New York.
“Administrative and legal costs associated with both compliance and lawsuits due to private rights of action will be a disincentive to business success, let alone growth,” the Business Council wrote in a memo. “This is particularly true for smaller firms and under-capitalized contractors and new entrants to the markets including minority and women-owned businesses. The cost of payment bonds to protect against any wage claims will be particularly hard for these smaller and less capitalized contractors.”
The bill which is seeking stronger language on its new passage through the State Senate and seems to be needed in some form as the immigrant work force continues to grow. It is no surprise that Unions will be strong supporters of this bill as tensions grow between open shop outfits and union outfits over work share. Unions stand to reduce the competitive advantage of open shops lower overheads as the bill will add labor and overhead costs to open shop employees bids.
Tensions are on the rise between non-union and union shops with the current Infrastructure Bill talks which are now beginning to show signs of under-funding money for infrastructure the USA desperately needs. Both Republican and Democrat budget options amounts put on the table in the current Infrastructure Bill seem too low and as the process takes longer…less and less will be available for the work needed to be done with current inflation, material escalations and labor costs.