Attorney General tells employers “wage theft” is a crime

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman flashed an article from the Buffalo News to emphasize his point about “the crime wave of ‘wage theft’ that is going on all over the United States.”

Speaking at a gathering of union members and their supporters outside of the Buffalo Irish Club on Labor Day, Schneiderman talked about making wage theft a hallmark of his Labor Bureau.

“Wage theft is not any different than car theft. It is not a smart business practice. It is a crime.”

Schneiderman reports his Labor Bureau has recovered more than $17 million on behalf of nearly 14,000 workers, and collected $2 million in penalties enforcing the state’s labor laws.

REVIEW REPORT | Schneiderman’s Labor Day Report

Among those cases was a $448,000 settlement with seven Domino’s pizza franchisees, including the operator of the store on Sheridan Drive in Amherst.

“Most of these employees at Domino’s in particular did not reimburse their drivers enough to cover the cost of delivering pizza, some refused to pay overtime,” said Schneiderman. “We found people who were being paid as little as $5.00 an hour.”

The president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, Richard Lipsitz, said American workers are under assault on many fronts, and it is up to labor to lead the fight “to improve living standards, to make for a healthier life in our community, meaning environmentally and socially, and psychologically.”

Labor leaders are also focusing their efforts on the temporary employment sector, as businesses increase their use of temporary help, and outsourcing.

Liz Smith, organizer for the Western New York Workers Center, said temps are a concern “as we see that this is a growing industry, and tied to a lot of exploitation.”

Attorney General prosecutions have resulted in jail time for a Bronx car wash owner, and a construction superintendent at LaGuardia Airport, leading Schneiderman put the wage issue into perspective: “Solid, middle class family-supporting jobs are vital to the health of every community, and we will aggressively pursue employers who refuse to pay prevailing wages required by law.”

Schneiderman contends, enforcing state labor laws protects workers and employers. When businesses cuts corners, and cheat workers – or try to circumvent health and safety laws – Schneiderman said it puts other companies at a disadvantage.

The New York City Democrat believes he is simply leveling the playing field.

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