Day laborers are an important source of labor in the local construction industry, particularly on small residential and commercial projects. Yet, day laborers are frequently the victims of wage theft– they are often cheated out of the wages they earn when unscrupulous contractors simply don’t pay them for days or weeks of work. In the most recent study of New York City day laborers, 60% of day laborers reported being underpaid by their employer and 49% reported not being paid at all. In addition to stealing wages from their workers, many contractors ignore legal proceedings and judgments for wage theft violations, apparently without concern that these violations will affect their city license or future business. City and state laws have failed thus far to keep unscrupulous construction contractors off day laborer street corners, where wage theft persists. To address this pervasive problem, NICE is working with allies and day laborers to identify specific policy reform proposals we can pursue at the city level. Check back soon to learn more details of this work as it develops. Additionally, NICE is involved in coalition work to address wage theft at the state level. Specifically, through the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) campaign, we are looking to address the fact that too many exploitative employers are able to hide or transfer their assets to avoid paying wages they have stolen from their employees. Even when workers win a court-awarded judgment, they are unlikely to actually receive the money owed to them. Through the SWEAT campaign, NICE and other coalition members are working to update New York law and join other states in providing workers the legal tools necessary to ensure that their employers will pay them once they are awarded a judgment. To learn more about this work, visit the SWEAT campaign website, www.sweatny.org.
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