As New York Legislative Session Ends, Several Pro-Labour Bills Are Left Behind
With New York’s upside-down legislative session set to end on Thursday, with a slew of pending bills still to be debated, state lawmakers have been forced to push the session into overtime, working until Friday afternoon. Although some pro-worker bills managed to pass both the Senate and the Assembly, a host of other bills were left behind, forcing their supporters to wait for yet another legislative cycle.
Anti-salary theft law does not leave the committee
Of the bills that did not pass this session, the potential legislation with the widest reach would have been Senate Bill S2762, otherwise known as the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) which was supported by a coalition of worker centers, elected officials, and union activists. Despite attempts by the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Jessica Ramos, to bring the bill to the legislature for a vote, SWEAT never managed to get out of the committee. It was another defeat for state workers suffering from wage theft. In 2020, SWEAT managed to pass both the Assembly and the Senate only to be vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Although Governor Cuomo then promised to enact necessary protections for workers “very soon” in his veto message, wage theft as an issue was omitted from the 2021 executive budget.
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“I’m fighting to get SWEAT through and get workers the wages they’ve stolen from them since I joined the legislature,” State Senator Jessica Ramos said. “While I am seriously disappointed that the Senate was unable to pass it this year, we will address rampant wage theft in our state. My neighbors need their money, and that’s what matters to me.
If passed, the bill would have given workers the power to place liens on their employer’s property to collect back wages if a court found wage theft had occurred. Currently, workers often struggle to collect money owed to them, as employers go to great lengths to hide assets.
A 2014 study by the US Department of Labor found that in New York, employers were stealing $1 billion in wages a year. With the pandemic only exacerbating the state’s wage theft epidemic, SWEAT supporters felt it was imperative to pass the bill during this legislative session because New York workers couldn’t afford to wait any longer.
“In immigrant communities, wage theft has become a normal part of life, with the $15/hour minimum wage being a joke to most. Now wage theft is increasingly hitting non-workers. immigrants and even unionized workers,” said Sarah Ahn, a labor organizer at the Flushing Workers Center and member of the SWEAT Coalition. “The Senate’s failure to right a wrong that has only worsened during the pandemic is short-lived. view because it will only create a worse problem for the state to solve.”
Home care reform bill scrapped
Despite the hopes of members of the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS) as well as members of Ain’t IA Woman?! The campaign hoped the state Legislature would finally push to pass Senate Bill S359A that would abolish the 24-hour shift by limiting homeworker shifts to 12 hours a day, 50 hours a week. . It’s something they’ve been campaigning for at least three years. Yet this session, the bill did not even leave the labor committee and was not put up for debate. For supporters of the bill, part of the reason the legislation failed to gain traction was the argument of the union which represents home care workers, SEIU, and home care agencies is that the state must first allocate about $1 billion in Medicaid funding before home care agencies can afford to lose a 24-hour shift.
“We believe in stopping these changes immediately instead of holding hundreds and hundreds of immigrant women of color hostage until these health agencies can come up with more and that’s ridiculous,” said Jihye Song, an organizer with NMASS. “We were disappointed.”
Despite loss, nail salon workers remain resilient
Although nail salon workers and their allies were unable to pass legislation on the Nail Salon Minimum Standards Council, the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, which includes organizations such as Adhikaar, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Mekong NYC, was proud to have succeeded in getting the bill introduced in the first place, as well as bringing attention to the plight of nail salon workers.
“For the past six months, we have taken to the streets, sang songs of hope and traveled to Albany to make our voices heard and let every legislator know that the nail salon industry has needs to be reformed,” said manicurist Sabita Lama. technician and leading member Adhikaar. “I’m proud of all of our fellow nail salon workers because we’ve come a long way, and our fight for a voice at work to improve the industry has only just begun.”
If passed, the bill would give workers the opportunity to sit down with government and small business owners to set health, safety and wage standards policies across the board. ‘industry. Additionally, it would establish a set of minimum prices at nail salons across the state.
Moving forward, the coalition plans to continue to agitate, educate and organize in preparation for the next legislative session.
“New York has a very short legislative session and a very large legislature, and then you have the budget process, so we knew there would be a lot of work that we would have to build on this year, said Daisy Chung, director. of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition.”So we’re very excited about the upcoming legislative session, but I want to say that change is more urgent than ever.”
Fashion workers won’t give up
Of all the labor-related bills to be introduced during this legislative session, the Fashion Workers Act was one of the most recent bills, having only been introduced last March. New York is the center of a $2.5 trillion global fashion industry, a $2.5 trillion global industry, and New York is its center in that industry. The state’s fashion industry employs 180,000 New Yorkers, representing 6% of the city’s workforce and generating $10.9 billion in total wages. Yet fashion workers such as models, many of whom are immigrant workers, lack basic labor protections. Under New York State general business law, modeling and creative agencies are considered management companies allowing them to evade licensing and regulation. Modeling agencies can wield enormous control over models’ image and finances
The bill, if passed, would create basic protections for fashion workers, such as requiring agencies to pay models within 45 days of completing a job and providing models with copies of contracts and agreements.
Due to its late introduction, the bill failed to garner a vote in both houses, but the bill gained attention and was able to pass the states labor committee. Like nail salon workers, supporters of the bill remain confident they will win the next session.
“We are encouraged that the Senate Labor Committee passed this bill so quickly after only being introduced in March. This is unusual for Albany,” said Sara Ziff, Founder and Executive Director of Model Alliance NY. “We don’t think this is a particularly controversial bill, and we’ll be back to get this bill across the finish line next session.”
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Not all bad news for workers
Although several key pieces of legislation failed to pass this session, it was not all bad news for workers. At least three major pieces of legislation were passed during this session, including the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, the Freelancers Are Not Free Act, and Carlos’ Law.
The Warehouse Worker Protection Act was passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature on Friday afternoon after lengthy debate. The bill has gained momentum through the legislature after it was introduced in April by Senator Jessica Ramos.
After news of injuries at Amazon’s warehouses and logistics facilities in New York rose 64% in 2021, due to the reinstatement of grueling productivity quotas, Ramos introduced the bill to force companies to be more transparent about exactly how quotas work and affect workers. . The bill requires large warehouse companies with at least 50 employees in a single warehouse or 500 workers statewide to provide their employees with documentation of their quotas at the time of hiring or when the law comes into effect. in effect for current employees.
Employees must also receive copies of their quota when changes are made and have the right to request their quota at any time, even after their employment ends. Companies will no longer be able to impose quotas that interfere with workers’ lunch, rest or bathroom breaks. Workers are protected from retaliation when exercising their rights under the law.
“We have a responsibility in the labor committee to ensure that our labor laws keep pace with the changing nature and conditions of work,” said Senator Jessica Ramos. “The algorithms that govern these productivity quotas in warehouses and distribution centers have a serious physical impact on workers. We simply cannot allow a multinational corporation – like Amazon, FedEx, or Walmart – to generate its profits on the literal backs of the workers of our state.
Regarding the other two laws that have been passed: The Freelance Isn’t Free Act will require written contracts and timely payment of compensation. Carlos’ Law is named after Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old construction worker who was killed in 2015 while working on a dangerous construction site. The law, which was first introduced in 2018, would expand the definition of “agency” in New York criminal law to make corporations criminally liable for the acts of common agents, rather than higher-level agents. , for crimes involving the death or injury of a worker. The law imposes a minimum fine of $500,000 for crimes with a maximum of $1 million and a minimum fine of $300,000 for misdemeanors with a maximum of $500,000.
All three bills are now waiting for Governor Kathy Hochul to be signed into law.