Learn more about the bill at www.sweatny.org
Thanks to everyone who volunteered and came out to CSWA’s annual Lunar New Year Celebration, once again the event was a great success, with hundreds of people in attendance.
Below, a look back at some highlights from last year. Enjoy!
Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association
Invites you to a Lunar New Year Celebration
Please join us for a day of festivities with family and friends as we bring in the Year of the Rooster with exhilarating musical performances, an amazing lion dance, a lunch buffet and raffle prizes!
February 26, 2017
PS 124 (40 Division Street in Chinatown, Manhattan)
For more information or to RSVP: 212-334-2333
Demand Mayor de Blasio Step Down for Racist Rezoning
The Citywide Alliance Against Displacement held a rally at City Hall to demand Mayor de Blasio step down for promoting racist rezoning plans that target communities of color and to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of fighting against racial and economic injustice all over the country. Around 500 protesters gathered to call on the mayor to step down. The Alliance said it chose this day to hold the rally to reclaim the day from politicians like Mayor de Blasio who use celebrations on this day to cover up their own racist policies.
Lai Yee Chan from Chinese Staff & Workers Association pointed to the impact on workers in the area. She said, “I’m a home attendant, who have been taking care of Chinese seniors and patients for years. If the low-income families in the Chinese community are being pushed out, we will lose our jobs as well. Whether in Chinatown, Brooklyn or Flushing, both seniors and us home attendants are the victims of displacement, because we will face job loss. The mayor is making our lives desperate.”
For more, visit the Coalition’s website at https://peoplefirstnyc.org/.
All images: Lanny Li
Do you think it’s right to force workers into arbitration? What about forcing workers to do overtime? Do you have ideas on how to promote the campaign or want to get involved?
- Sign a petition to 1199SEIU here
- Tweet the Ain’t I A Woman?! position paper on why we need to #Fightfor40 and #StopMandatoryOT to President Obama and any presidential candidate.
- Get your organization to endorse the Ain’t I A Woman?! Campaign.
- Contact the Ain’t I A Woman?! Campaign about how you are organizing in your community and/or invite Ain’t I A Woman?! to speak at your next event.
Lai Yee Chan, a home attendant for Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), helped her patients day and night for over 15 years. During the day, she bathed and fed her patients. At night, she helped them get out of bed and go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. She could not leave her patient for even a second of her 24-hour shift. One day her daughter was locked out of her house, but Lai Yee was not allowed to go downstairs to give her daughter the key. Adding insult to injury, Lai Yee has not seen a pay increase in 8 years, is not paid for the 12 hours of work at night, except for a small fee, and is never paid overtime. Ultimately, workers like Lai Yee are paid about $5/hour, way less than the minimum wage.
In November, 2014, Lai Yee received a check from NYS Department Labor of about $200 for the 6,000 hours of overtime she worked from 2007 to 2013. Lai Yee went to her union, 1199 SEIU, for help. Union reps refused to file a grievance, and lied, telling her CPC was not required to pay overtime because CPC is a non-profit. Lai Yee and a few other workers were frustrated and decided that they wanted to speak out against the wage theft and mandatory overtime. With the support of Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association, in March 2015 they filed a class action against CPC and organized over a hundred co-workers to join them. CPC argued that the case should be arbitrated, according to their contract with the Union, and asked the court to dismiss the case. But in September 2015, New York State Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead rejected the employer’s argument, stating that the contract’s arbitration clause was not specific enough to prevent workers from proceeding in court. She also affirmed their right to pursue pay for all hours worked.
Immediately after, the union shamelessly entered into an agreement with the employer to amend the contract making arbitration mandatory for any wage claims and prohibiting workers from representing other workers or the class. The amendment deprived workers of their right to a fair day in court. The new contract also cut the wages for all 24-hour-shift workers, instead of giving them their wage increase that was long overdue.
The union’s legal staff claimed the new contract was not being used to stop workers from pursuing the lawsuit, yet other union reps pushed hard for ratification of the new contract. Lai Yee and her coworkers felt compelled to speak out against this corrupt deal. When they complained about the amended contract at the ratification meeting, union reps called them “troublemakers” and attacked the workers who filed the lawsuit.
We demand the union stand by the workers instead of standing with CPC! We urge 1199 SEIU President George Gresham to clean house and remove the mandatory arbitration requirement from the union contract!
Do you want to support the home attendants to get justice and fight against mandatory overtime? Here’s what you can do:
- Get your organization to join the Ain’t I a Woman Campaign by visiting https://aintiawoman.org/endorse/
- Send a letter urging 1199 SEIU President George Gresham to clean house: 1199 Healthcare Workers East, 310 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036
- Sign the petition online
- Speak out against Mandatory Overtime and for the Right to a 40-Hour Week
- Get involved and plan your own activities! Contact the campaign with any ideas at email@example.com!
“With Minimum Wage Passed, Advocates Look to Wage Theft Issue” – Albany Times Union
“Workers Press for Bill to Assist Wage Theft Victims” – Public News Service
“Renewed Push to Prevent Wage Theft” – Capitol Tonight interview with Sarah Ahn and Susan Zimet of the SWEAT Coalition
Workers Call on Albany Legislators:
Make the Minimum Wage Increase Real for All Workers
On the heels of New York State’s minimum wage increase, workers and supporters are convening in Albany to say, a wage increase is critical, but will never be seen by many workers unless the Legislature also provides the tools needed to enforce the wage laws. Workers, advocates, and supporters from throughout NYS joined Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Senator Jose Peralta and co-sponsors to call for passage of A5501/S2232, the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) bill.
According to a study by the US Department of Labor released last year, workers in NY and California lose 1.6-2.5 billion dollars a year to wage theft. This means, workers are not being paid for the work they have already performed. Even with recent measures to combat wage theft in NYS, many millions of workers are routinely cheated out of their pay. This is because employers are able to shut down their shops, transfer and hide their assets and never pay even when workers win court judgments. Many workers who turn to government agencies meet the same fate. A report published last year by the SWEAT Coalition found that $125 million went uncollected on wage theft judgments and orders, of which $101 million were from orders by the State Department of Labor.
The proposed bill offers a simple solution to workers and enforcing government agencies by introducing new tools to combat wage theft. The bill will expand and improve existing mechanisms so unscrupulous employers cannot fraudulently dissipate their assets to evade court judgments and orders to pay owed wages.
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, the bill’s lead sponsor, shared the experiences of her constituents and workers in her district who faced this uphill battle. “Without the ability to collect on a wage theft judgments, winning in court is not worth the
piece of paper it’s written on,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). “Some employers will go to any length to avoid paying workers their hard earned wages, including filing for bankruptcy, leaving hundreds of hard working New Yorkers owed hundreds of millions of dollars in earned wages. My bill, A.5501-C, the SWEAT bill, will arm aggrieved employees with a powerful tool to collect wages they earned, allowing them to file a wage lien against the assets of their employer.”
State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Queens), sponsor of the bill, noted, “Countless hardworking New Yorkers are abused on the job when it comes to straight out wage theft, the theft of tips, and payments below the minimum wage. Unfortunately, predatory and unscrupulous employers are stealing money from men and women who earn it to support their families. This is intolerable. If an employer steals from a worker, we should have every possible recourse available to remedy the situation. Period.”
Jei Fong, a representative of the SWEAT Coalition stated, “If our elected officials in Albany don’t pass the SWEAT bill this year, many workers will be left behind when wages are increased next year. It’s impossible to lift workers out of poverty when unscrupulous employers continue to underpay workers and can still avoid ever being held responsible. Our bill allows workers and the government to go after only the employers who break the law. This is good for workers, law-abiding employers, and the state.”
The Coalition behind this bill is a statewide coalition, representing workers, community, advocacy and faith-based groups from all over New York State.
Susan Zimet, executive director of Hunger Action Network of New York State stated, “It is criminal that workers, after putting in hours and hours of work, can then have their wages stolen from them! How is the worker supposed to put food on the table or pay their bills? What good is a law if the loopholes are so big it is ineffectual? It is imperative that the SWEAT bill is passed this legislative session and signed into law. Workers deserve the protection under the law, and SWEAT will do just that.”
“The wage theft epidemic in New York is not isolated to the NYC and downstate area—it’s a state-wide crisis that impacts workers and communities throughout the state, including areas of Upstate, Central and Western New York,” said Elizabeth Koo from Empire Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project in Rochester, NY. “When wages are stolen from workers and they’re left unable to recover the money owed to them, it’s not only the workers who suffer—our government gets cheated of payroll taxes, it creates unfair competition to law-abiding businesses, and it hurts working families and our state’s economy. The SWEAT bill is badly needed to address the far-reaching impacts of the wage theft crisis in New York.”
CSWA’s Lunar New Year Celebration
Join us for a day of festivities with family and friends as we bring in the Year of the Monkey with performances, a lion dance, lunch buffet, and raffle prizes.
Celebrate the victories and achievements of 2015 and look forward with us to uniting our community against racism and exploitation.