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Cuomo Vetoes Wage Theft Protections - Governor “Wholeheartedly” Supported Its Intent, But ‘Objected’ Legislation Would Allow Workers/State To Put A Lien On Employers’ Property ‘Before’ Courts/State Agencies Issued Judgment Against Them

Published Friday, January 3, 2020
by Steve Wishnia/LaborPress.org
Cuomo Vetoes Wage Theft Protections - Governor “Wholeheartedly” Supported Its Intent, But ‘Objected’ Legislation Would Allow Workers/State To Put A Lien On Employers’ Property ‘Before’ Courts/State Agencies Issued Judgment Against Them

(ALBANY, NEW YORK) - Governor Andrew Cuomo has quietly vetoed a bill that would have allowed Workers to put liens on the property of employers they’ve accused of Wage Theft.

The Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) Bill, passed by the New York State Legislature last June, would have established an “Employee’s Lien” to parallel the “Mechanic’s Lien” that a landscaper or construction contractor can put on the property of homeowners who haven’t paid their bills.

That would have enabled Workers who have filed Wage Theft allegations to freeze their employers’ assets while their claims are pending, “to ensure the money is there when the case is over,” State Senator Jessica Ramos (Democrat-Queens) and Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal (Democrat-Manhattan), the bill’s lead sponsors, said in a joint statement.

The 10 largest shareholders (or those with the 10 largest ownership interests) of a business would have been personally liable and the State Department of Labor and Attorney General’s Office would have also been able to seek liens.

Governor Cuomo’s veto message said he supported the legislation’s intent “wholeheartedly,” but he objected that it would allow Workers or the state to put a lien on employers’ property before the courts or state agencies had issued a judgment against them.

He suggested that would be considered “inadequate due process.”

He also said the bill “creates a broad definition of ‘employer’ that includes business entities, owners and lower-level managers and subordinates.”

“Along with a diverse coalition of more than one-hundred advocacy organizations and Workers, and after years of hard work, we are deeply disappointed by the veto of the SWEAT Bill,” Ramos and Rosenthal said. “This veto hurts the thousands of Workers who have been left holding the bag.”

Supporters of the bill argue that putting liens on employers’ property before claims are resolved is essential to ensure that Workers who win back pay are actually able to collect it.

Ramos and Rosenthal wrote last year that the legislation was necessary because “in too many instances, exploitative employers dissipate their assets or dissolve their business to avoid paying wages they owe to their Employees,” and that by the time Workers are awarded a judgment, “there are few, if any, assets to be found.”

“The problem is how easy it is for employers to transfer assets under current law,” Flushing Workers Center Organizer Sarah Ahn told LaborPress. “If we didn’t have this problem, we wouldn’t have drafted a bill.”

At the Indus Valley Restaurant on the Upper West Side, a group of about 10 Delivery Workers whose employer had paid them less than Minimum Wage and stolen their tips won $700,000 in 2015, but the owner changed the name of the restaurant to Manhattan Valley, and the Workers only collected $110,000.

The only reason they got even that, former Deliveryman Solomon Perez told LaborPress at a rally held outside the governor’s Manhattan offices on November 20th, was because the “supposed new owner” owed money to the old owner, so the judge had him pay it to the Workers instead.

To Continue Reading This Labor News Story, Go To: http://laborpress.org/cuomo-vetoes-wage-theft-protections/?fbclid=IwAR3Ti6j1WaDFf5-EpMI3swQ9g7OnLEfUsAtjWk6pO1aKo0JLTN6OSQabvrA

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