Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., has announced the creation of the Office’s Worker Protection Unit to investigate and prosecute wage theft and other forms of worker harassment and exploitation across Manhattan’s many industries.
“At the Manhattan D.A.’s office, we’re holding accountable companies and executives that exploit their workers, whether by jeopardizing their safety or stealing their wages,” said District Attorney Bragg. “The creation of the Office’s Worker Protection Unit is our latest move to stand up for hard-working New Yorker’s. Again and again, we see companies taking advantage of our most vulnerable populations, including low-income and undocumented New Yorker’s, and abusing power imbalances to line their pockets.”
Building on the success of the DA’s Office’s Construction Fraud Task Force, which will be part of the Worker Protection Unit, the Unit will pursue criminal charges against individuals and corporations that jeopardize their workers’ safety and steal their wages.
“New York’s construction industry is polluted with crooked contractors whose very business model is based on exploiting and stealing from the city’s most vulnerable workers—immigrants, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated. I hope the word gets out to unscrupulous employers everywhere–continue to cheat workers and prepare to find yourself either in jail or out of business,” said Michael E. Hellstrom, Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager Laborers’ International Union of North America.
Wage theft in New York accounts for nearly $1 billion in lost wages each year and affects tens of thousands of workers, according to Cornell University’s Worker Institute.
“The New York City District Council of Carpenters’ fights every day for fair wages, good benefits, and safe job sites, and on behalf of our 20,000 members, we applaud Manhattan District Attorney Bragg’s creation of a Worker Protection Unit and Stolen Wages Fund. I’ve seen firsthand the abuse contractors commit, and New Yorkers deserve better,” said David Caraballoso, Vice President of the New York City District Council of Carpenters.
D.A. Bragg also announced the creation of a first-ever Stolen Wage Fund for Manhattan victims of wage theft, funded through the D.A.’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative and operated in partnership with the New York State Department of Labor.
“Far too often, irresponsible and unscrupulous contractors on construction sites abuse their workers by withholding wages, overtime, and benefits, and by mobilizing more extensive wage protection measures, Manhattan has stepped up to protect New York City’s tradesmen and tradeswomen from further exploitation,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “Honest work should always result in honest pay and accountability on the job is fundamental. We applaud DA Bragg for being an advocate for hardworking New Yorkers, and their families, and look forward to working with his office to ensure construction workers are being protected and compensated properly for their contributions to driving forward key infrastructure projects in our city.”