“Workers are kept separate from each other and a lack of trust between workers becomes an advantage for unscrupulous employers who not only steal wages from workers but put them at risk in dangerous workplaces," said Maria Figueroa, in a panel discussion in Albany on wage theft in the new economy.
The panel discussion titled "Policy Strategies for Protecting Workers in the New Economy" was held on Wednesday, May 15th in the Legislative Office Building, Albany Room Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY. The panel was hosted by the Worker Institute and the Labor and Employment Law Program of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
“As a public defender, I saw people do real-time for a very small amount of theft and at the Department of Labor I see people do no time for huge amounts of theft because they are stealing from workers,” said James Rogers, Deputy Commissioner for Worker Protection and Business & Labor Affairs, New York State Department of Labor.
The panel was moderated by Esta Bigler, Director of the Labor, and Employment Law Program, Cornell University ILR School. The speakers included the Hon. Jamaal T. Bailey, NYS Senator, District 36, Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division, New York County District Attorney's Office, James Rogers, Deputy Commissioner for Worker Protection and Business & Labor Affairs, New York State Department of Labor, Maria Figueroa, Director, Labor and Policy Research, The Worker Institute, Cornell University ILR School, and Linda Donahue, The Worker Institute.
Other speakers included Hon. Catalina Cruz, NYS Assemblymember, District 39, who discussed her wage theft bill that would turn wages into property so employers who steal wages from workers could be sued for theft.
According to some estimates, annual wage theft nationwide may total $15 billion. "Not every state has a Cornell. Not every state has a School of Industrial Labor Relations. There are benefits to having an academic partner that does research,” said Rogers.
The Worker Institute recently published a new study, "On-Demand Platform Workers in New York State: The Challenges for Public Policy," on the pressure the gig economy puts on individuals.