July 20, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Some of the most active and influential labor leaders and worker advocates in the city have been named to a new statewide task force aimed at "rooting out" workplace abuses across 14 problematic industries.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, 32BJ President Hector Figueroa, 1199 SEIU President George Gresham, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Garry LaBarbera, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council President Peter Ward and others, are all part of a renewed effort to combat exploitation in the workplace.
The targeted industries include nail salons, farming, child care, cleaning, home health care, laundries, restaurants, retail, construction, landscaping, car washes, supermarkets, editorial services and truck and wast disposal drivers.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced the task force's formation after signing new legislation specifically aimed at protecting nail salon workers.
Another task force member, Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, told LaborPress that she hopes the governor's task force can investigate creative ways to police the aforementioned industries – as well as help craft the "legislative hooks" needed to eradicate all forms of worker exploitation.
“If there is a state that is going to take a stand against worker exploitation, it is New York,” Governor Cuomo said after announcing the task force last week. “New York offers a promise that our arms and hearts are open to those who come here to work and build a better future for themselves – and we will not tolerate worker exploitation, period. It’s not a Democratic or a Republican issue – it’s what we believe, and together we’re going to make this a reality.”
While worker exploitation encompasses a wide array of issues, Axt said that she is especially excited about the potential to confront chronic wage theft.
"The realities that our members see every day in all of the industries in the task force, and others, is that for hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers, the minimum wage is just never real because their wages are stolen from them," Axt said.
While the new task force has yet to meet, a hotline to report worker exploitation and wage and and workplace violations, has been set up at 1-888-469-7365.
The new task force also involves 10 different state agencies, including the Department of State, Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture and Markets.