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NYC Comptroller Stringer announces $2 M in stolen prevailing wages returned to workers during Covid19

New York: New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer kicked off Labor Rights Week by announcing that nearly $2 million in stolen prevailing wages has been returned to more than 100 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has  also launched a series of “Know Your Rights” virtual events in collaboration with labor rights groups, community organizations, the Consulate of Mexico and Latin American Consulates Coalition.

The Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law enforces prevailing wage and benefit rates for construction and building service workers employed by contractors on City public work projects. When companies on these public contracts fail to pay the proper wages and benefits, the Comptroller enforces the law to recover the money owed to workers and ensures that they receive the money through outreach. Amid the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Comptroller’s office launched a phone banking campaign in April to return unclaimed wages to workers cheated out of pay. Since March, the Comptroller’s Office has returned nearly $2 million to more than 100 workers.

“I always say that in my office, every week is Labor Rights Week. I believe that workers are their own best advocates when they know their rights, which is why community-based partnerships are so important,” said Comptroller Stringer. “My office is as committed to the enforcement of prevailing wages as we are in connecting workers with the pay they are rightfully owed. The economic fallout of COVID-19 has made this work more important than ever, and I am proud that our redoubled efforts have brought justice to more than 100 workers during these past few challenging months.”

The Mexican Consulate in New York hosts Labor Rights Week every year just before Labor Day (Sept 7). This year’s Labor Rights Week has been a virtual event.  An MOU is signed every two years in commitment to the partnership between the Comptroller’s office and the Mexican Consulate to promote labor rights and advocate for workers. The Mexican Consulate has similar MOUs with New York State and the United States Departments of Labor. For the Comptroller’s office, the object of the MOU is to ensure workers are aware of their rights to prevailing wages on City-funded public work sites.

Deborah Axt, Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said: “At a time when so many families are hurting and there is a great need for emergency income for thousands of excluded New Yorkers, Comptroller Stringer’s initiative put money in the hands of workers that have been cheated out of pay regardless of their immigration status. Wage theft is a persistent and pervasive problem in New York, with employers consistently cheating workers out of money they rightfully earned. We commend the Comptroller for fighting to recoup wages for workers and sending a clear message to employers that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Kyle Bragg, President of 32BJ SEIU, said: “As Comptroller, Scott Stringer has consistently stood up for the rights of workers. We strongly commend  the Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law for overcoming challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic to restore to more than 100 workers $2 million in stolen wages they should have received under prevailing wage, especially at a time when so many families are hurting. We strongly support ongoing efforts by his office to put lost wages back in the hands of families that need them., especially at this time.”

Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said: “With immigrants representing more than half of our front line workers and thousands ineligible for relief, it is vital that workers receive every cent owed them. Even during the best of times, rampant wage theft remains a reality for all too many hard-working New Yorkers. We applaud the Comptroller’s efforts through the covid-19 pandemic recouping $2 million in stolen prevailing wages for more than 100 hundred workers regardless of their immigration status and ensuring all workers get the compensation they deserve for their labor.”

Jorge Islas, Consul General of Mexico and President of the Coalition of Latin American Consuls in New York, said: “We welcome the Comptroller’s determination and commitment to ensure that all workers, men and women, regardless of their immigration status, are compensated for their hard work. We will continue strengthening our alliance with all the City authorities in order to fight all practices of labor discrimination and abuse, and to encourage all New Yorkers to come forward to denounce them, and claim their rightful lost wages. New York City is home to a significant number of Mexican and Latin American nationals who are not only very much integrated and embedded into the fabric of American society, but also key contributors to their economy and frontline during any crisis. We are living exceedingly difficult times, but supporting the migrants in the region, will undoubtedly help New York City to recover from these extraordinary circumstances.”

Since 2014, Comptroller Stringer’s office has assessed more than $30 million in prevailing wage violations and paid over $15 million to employees who were cheated out of their wages. It has also debarred 60 contractors who took advantage of workers – setting an office record.

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