New York, NY – The Low-Wage Worker Task Force, a coalition of attorneys and advocates who fight for the rights of New York’s low-wage workers, has just informed New York’s candidates for Attorney General about the critical issues facing low-wage workers. Low-wage workers are the backbone of New York’s economy, and we believe that it is crucial that whoever wins the office makes the issues faced by this population a priority.
As we have communicated to the candidates, low-wage workers in New York City and throughout New York State have historically suffered under exploitative and unlawful working conditions and have lacked power in their workplaces, and 2018 has been no different. With the advent of the “gig” economy and the increase of contingent work, the exploitation of low-wage workers has risen dramatically. Workers are being misclassified as independent contractors at increasing levels, resulting in lower wages and the inability to access benefits such as unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and medical insurance. Workers of color are facing higher levels of discrimination and harassment in the current climate. Immigrant workers in particular are at risk of exploitation, retaliation, and deportation if they try to enforce their rights. Low-wage female workers also face sexual harassment and violence in the workplace.
We have asked each candidate to make issues facing low-wage workers a top priority and to commit to holding a quarterly meeting with the Low-Wage Worker Task Force so that we can be in continuing conversation about the struggles of New York’s low-wage workers, and what the Attorney General’s office can do to combat the difficulties they face.
Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Task Force Member Make the Road New York, said, "The Attorney General's office plays a critical role in enforcing labor standards for the most vulnerable workers across industries throughout the state, especially now when our immigrant communities are under attack. We are calling on the new Attorney General to renew the Office's commitment to protecting low-wage, immigrant workers from exploitative working conditions and prosecuting unscrupulous employers to the full extent of the law."
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, Associate Counsel of Task Force Member Latino Justice PRLDEF, said, “In a time where misogyny, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment is espoused as official policy, workers are at the intersection of that abuse and exploitation. Low-wage workers have long been subject to systemic exploitation - including harassment and discrimination - yet now the criminalization of immigrant workers has been endorsed and even encouraged at the highest levels of government. It is critical that New York State be at the forefront of protecting its workforce, enforcing worker protections and signaling to employers that any discriminatory conduct targeting their workers will be met with the full force of the law.”
Judith Whiting, General Counsel of Task Force Member Community Service Society, said, “Low-wage workers are the backbone of New York State’s economy. It is crucial that New York’s next Attorney General zealously enforce existing laws to ensure that local and regional employers treat low-wage workers fairly, and partner with attorneys general from around the country to fight large-scale bad actors operating across state lines. But it is also essential that the incoming Attorney General realize the considerable power vested in that office by fighting for stronger, more protective laws that will better serve low-wage workers.”
To read about the critical issues facing low wage workers, please contact Nicole Salk, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Services NYC, at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the Task Force’s letter to the Attorney General candidates.
The Low-Wage Worker Task Force is made up of New York’s leading workers’ rights organizations. The Task Force holds monthly trainings on tools and strategies for advocating for the rights of low-wage workers, and we regularly collaborate and share ideas. The Task Force Members that have signed on to this press release include A Better Balance, Catholic Migration Services, the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, the Community Service Society, Latino Justice PRLDEF, the Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC, Make the Road New York, Mobilization for Justice, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the New York Legal Assistance Group, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, UAW Region 9A, Volunteers of Legal Service, and Youth Represent.
For 170 years, the Community Service Society of New York has been the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers and continues to advocate for the economic security of the working poor in the nation’s largest city. We respond to urgent, contemporary challenges with applied research, advocacy, litigation and innovative program models that help the working poor achieve a better quality of life and promote a more prosperous city.