Workers Call on Albany Legislators to Make the Minimum Wage Increase Real for All Workers

“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

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MEDIA RELEASE

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.”

Celebrate the Lunar New Year With Us!

CSWA’s Lunar New Year Celebration

Sunday, March 6, 2016
2:30pm-5pm
P.S.124 – Yung Wing School
(40 Division St in Chinatown, Manhattan)
CSWA New Year Party Photo

Lion Dance Performers at CSWA’s 2015 Lunar New Year Celebration

As Fearlessly as the Monkey King Defeating All Demons
Chinese Workers Gain Justice Through Struggle

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.

RSVP to cswa@cswa.org or call 212-334-2333

Community Marches Against Racism and Displacement

Community Demands de Blasio Adopt LES/Chinatown Rezoning Plan

On Oct. 28, hundreds of residents, workers, students, small business owners, and others — including children and elderly — from the Lower East Side, Chinatown and across the city marched to City Hall. The marchers slogged through Hurricane Patricia’s driving rain from Cherry Street in the Lower East Side, past the Department of City Planning. Arriving at City Hall, marchers called on Mayor de Blasio to adopt the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) Rezoning Plan that will protect the entire community, which has become vulnerable to rampant luxury development.

Since the East Village Rezoning Plan was passed in 2008 — protecting majority white and wealthier neighborhoods while excluding majority Latino, African-American and Chinese neighborhoods in Community District 3 — new luxury development has accelerated gentrification and led to massive evictions. One stark example is the 80-story Extell tower with poor door that has applied for the 421-a tax break. The Lower East Side/Chinatown is now ground zero for the displacement of low-income people of color.

For the past seven years, nearly 60 organizations from the Lower East Side and Chinatown joined CWG to create a community-led rezoning plan that would protect the entire community using similar protections afforded to the East Village. Earlier this year the City’s Department of City Planning (DCP) rejected the community rezoning plan adopted by Chinatown Working Group, calling it too “far-fetched.”

On September 25th, close to 1,000 concerned individuals marched to City Hall to demand Mayor de Blasio take a stand against the displacement and adopt the CWG Rezoning Plan. The outpouring of community concern has encouraged other sectors of the community–including churches, students and small business owners–to join the call to pass the CWG Rezoning Plan. Some businesses even closed their doors for a few hours in a show of support for the march.

Coalition members invited Mayor de Blasio to attend the rally and put out his position on the marchers’ demands to:

  • End the 421-a tax abatement (a tax subsidy for luxury developments)
  • Immediately halt the Extell luxury tower at 227 Cherry Street
  • Adopt the CWG rezoning plan

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Chinatown and the Lower East Side are Not For Sale!

MARCH AGAINST DISPLACEMENT
Wednesday, October 28 at 3:30PM
Start at Cherry Street and Pike Slip | End at City Hallmarch-down-east-broadway

When New York City adopted the major East Village Rezoning in 2008, Chinatown and the Lower East Side were intentionally excluded. The wealthier white residents of the East Village got height restrictions and zoning protections for their neighborhood, while high-rise, luxury development was pushed into our community. Now the NYC Department of City Planning refuses to pass the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan, saying it’s too “far-fetched” to give Chinatown and Lower East Side equal protection to the East Village. Will Mayor de Blasio follow Bloomberg’s racist legacy by selling out our community to luxury developers?

If the Chinatown Working Group rezoning were adopted, luxury developers like Extell would not be able to build their 80 story high-rise tower with a separate “poor door” for low-income tenants. The rezoning plan will limit the height and size of buildings, require low-income housing in every new development, and block the sale of public housing and land to developers. These measures are needed to stop skyrocketing rents and the displacement of residents and small businesses.

On Sept. 25, close to a thousand residents, workers, small businesses, students, and others from Chinatown, the LES, and across the city marched to City Hall to demand that Mayor de Blasio protect our community from displacement.

Our community has been set in motion, but we must show Mayor de Blasio that we will not stop until our community gets the equal protection we deserve. We call on everyone to join our march on Wednesday, Oct. 28!

Demand that Mayor de Blasio Protect the Lower East Side and Chinatown:

  • Stop the racist Extell luxury development
  • End the 421a tax giveaway
  • Pass the Chinatown Working Group Community Rezoning Plan
Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the Lower East Side

List in formation: 318 Restaurant Workers’Union, Action by the Lower East Side, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Cabalito Restaurant, Chinese Staff &Workers Association, District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, District Leader Pedro Cardi, Harlem Consumer Education Council, LaGuardia Houses Tenant Patrol, Lands End 2 Resident Association, LES Dwellers, Lower East Side Anti-Displacement Project, Mujeres y Hombres Luchadoras, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, Orchard Street Block Association, Professor Peter Kwong from CUNY-Hunter, Project Reach, Sixth Street Community Center, Professor Juanita Díaz-Cotto from SUNY-Binghamton

It’s Time for the CSWA Picnic!

Join us for a day of fun with family and friends

BBQ * Swimming * Hiking * Games

Date: Sunday, August 23, 2015

Time: 8:30am-5pm

Location: Lake Welch, Harriman State Park

SEATING IS LIMITED! RSVP / pick up bus tickets from CSWA’s Chinatown Center or call (212) 334-2333

Bus Tickets:
$15  Members *  $20 Non-members  * $10 for children under age 12
(Buses leave from Chinatown and Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
 Highlights of the trip include:
  • Beach – Enjoy swimming, sunbathing and sand on a half-mile long beach
  • Hiking – Take a stroll on one of the many trails in Harriman State Park
  • Games – Kid and family friendly fun
  • Community – Come learn about recent developments in our work!
*Please note there is a $8/vehicle entrance fee if you plan to drive. 

** Press Advisory **

Communities Protest DCP’s Refusal to Protect Communities of Color,

     Call for March to City Hall- Call on Mayor to

Protect Chinatown and Lower East Side and Stop Extell

Date: Thursday, August 20, 2015
Time: 11AM
Location: Across from 227 Cherry St (corner of Pike St)
    Since the passing of the 2008 rezoning plan that only protected the East Village while excluding Chinatown and Lower East Side, many residents and small businesses have been displaced from our communities. The Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side met with the Department of City Planning (DCP) on August 5th and asked the DCP to give the same protections to Chinatown and the Lower East Side, which are mixed communities of color, as given to the East Village, a majority white community. The Coalition was told that we were too ambitious and our rezoning plan could not be implemented.
On August 20, 2015, 11am, the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side will hold a press conference at 227 Cherry Street where Extell is building a racist tower that will include a “poor door”. We will tell Mayor de Blasio that communities of color have had enough with the city’s racism and efforts to push us out! We will also call for a march to City Hall on September 25, 2015, from the former Pathmark site.
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Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the Lower East Side
318 Restaurant Workers’ Union, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chinese Staff & Workers Association, District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, District Leader Pedro Cardi, LaGuardia Houses Tenant Patrol, Lands End 2 Resident Association, Lower East Side Anti-Displacement Project, La Mujeres y Hombres Luchadoras, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, Orchard Street Block Association,
Professor Peter Kwong from CUNY-Hunter, Project Reach, Sixth Street Community Center, Professor Juanita Díaz-Cotto from SUNY-Binghamton

Nail Salon, Restaurant, Day Laborer Workers and Advocates Applaud Attention to Wage Theft and Enforcement Call on Gov. Cuomo to Support SWEAT Bill to Make Labor Law Enforceable

Stop Wage Theft

Nail salon, restaurant, day laborer, home attendant, office, and other workers have been standing up against wage theft and even winning decisions. But despite these judgments, workers have not been able to collect the wages owed to them because legal loopholes allow employers to completely escape responsibility. By fraudulently transferring assets, declaring bankruptcy, or shutting down their business and changing names, unscrupulous employers can avoid ever paying the stolen wages of even those workers who win decisions at the DOL or judgments in court, such as the nail salon workers at Babi Nails.

This not only causes many workers to suffer, it also undermines those employers who comply with the labor law. Even the Labor Department says it is frustrated because it cannot collect stolen wages.

As long as bosses can run away from the law, there will be no end to wage theft. The Coalition calls on the Governor to support the SWEAT bill (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) to make the labor law enforceable and to put a stop to sweatshop conditions.

83-85 Bowery

Monday 5/18 at 10AM: Tenants Speak Out Against Eviction by Slumlord, and Demand Repairs

*Press Advisory*

Tenants Speak Out Against Eviction by Slumlord, and Demand Repairs

Urge Mayor to Take Steps to Prevent Further Displacement in Chinatown/Lower East Side

What: Press Conference

When: Monday, May 18, 2015,10am

Where: In front of 83-85 Bowery St. New York, NY, 10002

For years, residents of 83-85 Bowery Street have been experiencing constant water leakage from ceilings, and recently, a bathroom floor on the verge of collapse. For example, when one floor takes a shower, water leaks through the floor below. In one apartment, they have to keep an umbrella up in their bathroom to prevent water from the above apartment from coming down on them. In addition, the uneven and sloping stairs have been a hazardous problem for one of the buildings, where many families, seniors, and children live.  Most recently, after the tenants organized a tenant association, the tenants of 85 Bowery had their gas cut off since April 1st, 2015, and despite calls to 311 and asking the landlord to resolve, gas was only reinstated last week, after over 40 days.

The landlord, Joseph Betesh, has left the building to be rundown since he acquired it in 2013, along with 9 other buildings on Bowery Street.  Since then, no repairs or upkeep have been done by the landlord. The landlord is deliberately keeping the building in disrepair as a way to force tenants out because he cannot do so legally.

Since the passage of the 2008 rezoning, many luxury developments have been pushed into our neighborhood, and landlords in Chinatown and the Lower East Side have been evicting low income people from rent stabilized buildings left and right. The tenants are demanding the landlord to fix immediate dangers in all apartments and that the City should hold the landlord accountable.  The tenants, along with the Public Advocate’s Office, call for public attention to this concern and urge other tenants to speak out against poor living conditions.