Albany, NY – Governor Cuomo recently announced a first-of-its-kind statewide Task Force to root out worker exploitation issues in multiple industries in New York State. Building on the Governor’s groundbreaking initiative to protect workers in the nail salon industry, the Task Force will identify and halt illegal practices in more industries across the state. The Task Force is composed of 10 State agencies including the Department of State, Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture and Markets, and will work in partnership with an advisory committee that is charged with providing legislative, regulatory and administrative recommendations. The Governor made the announcement while in the Bronx signing legislation to protect and support nail salon workers in New York.
“If there is a state that is going to take a stand against worker exploitation, it is New York,” said Governor Cuomo. “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.”
The multi-agency Task Force is a critical addition to New York’s fight against worker exploitation and builds on the Governor’s initiative protecting workers in nail salons. The Governor was joined by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to sign legislation that helps protect nail salon employees from unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices.
Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation
The Task Force will begin by addressing issues that were discovered based on worker complaints directly to the State and referrals from advocacy organizations. Workers are often victimized through wage theft, human trafficking, retaliation, unsafe or unsanitary working conditions, unstable or unscheduled hours and illegal deductions for supplies, training or uniforms.
Anyone with information of suspected worker abuse should contact the Task Force Hotline at 1-888-469-7365. Callers can remain anonymous.
Enforcement efforts will focus on industries with the highest rates of employer non-compliance and where workers are least likely to come forward, for fear of retaliation. Specifically, industries were selected based on geographic or community isolation of the workforce within the industry, danger of the occupation based on reported death rates, state-wide investigator experiences, evaluation of high violation rates for complaints with a low number of complaints, prevalence of off the books employment by industry and statistics and percentage of the immigrant workforce in each industry. Initial target areas include industries such as:
- Nail Salons
- Home Health Care
- Car Washes
- Janitorial Services
- Truck and Waste Disposal Drivers
The Task Force will include representatives from state agencies including the Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of Health, Workers’ Compensation Board, Department of Tax and Finance, Department of Agriculture and Markets, Office of Children and Family Services, Office of Faith Based Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services and State Police. The agencies will have more than 700 investigators, including multilingual investigators who speak: Bengali, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Hindi, Haitian Creole, and Korean. Language access services will be available in all languages at all agencies.
The Task Force will work in partnership with an advisory committee that will meet monthly and is charged with providing legislative, regulatory and administrative recommendations to the administration. The committee will be charged with providing its first set of recommendations by December of this year to be considered for next year’s legislative session. Committee members include:
- Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU
- Esta Bigler, Cornell University ILR School
- Steve Choi, New York Immigration Coalition
- Anne Erickson, Empire Justice Center
- Hector Figueroa, 32BJ
- George Gresham, 1199
- Gary La Barbera, Trades
- Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union
- Dean Norton, Farm Bureau
- Lewis O. Papenfuse, Worker Justice Center
- Ted Potrikus, Retail Council of New York
- Javier Valdes and Deborah Axe, Make the Road New York
- Peter Ward, HTC
- Danny Wegman, Wegmans
- Kathy Wylde, NYC Partnership
Legislation to Protect Nail Salon Workers
The Governor has additionally signed legislation vital to protecting and supporting nail salon workers in New York. The bill was one of the Governor’s top priorities this legislative session and builds on the Governor’s previous efforts to implement sweeping emergency regulations to protect the rights of workers in the industry.
The legislation gives the Department of State the authority to shut down a business that is not following the law. The agency can cease unlicensed or uninsured activities and impose financial penalties at higher levels than was previously permitted in response to violations. In addition, unlicensed nail practitioners now have the ability to register with the state as trainees. This allows them to continue working while they study for their licensing exam, instead of solely relying on often prohibitively high-cost education program.
The legislation also implements new regulations for nail salons to address new bond and insurance requirements, improved personal protective equipment and required postings of any cease and desist notices that may be issued to a business found to be operating without a license and of a new Bill of Rights, available in 12 languages. Additionally, regulations are to be proposed with enhanced ventilation requirements and a review is under way of chemicals used in nails salons.
Included in the Governor’s previous efforts include administrative changes to expand: availability of licensing exams through translations into in additional languages; access to free English classes; and availability of free training materials through the Department of State’s website.
Anyone with questions about nail salons or who is concerned about proper wages and safe working conditions should visit www.ny.gov/nailsalonsafety or contact the Task Force Hotline at (888) 469-7365.
Source: NY Governor’s Office