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Post date: April 12 2001

Pitzer To Investigate Labor Law Violations Against Day Laborers

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office will form a task force to investigate allegations of labor violations involving day laborers, predominately Hispanic immigrants, in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Putnam counties. The task force will be charged with ensuring that workers receive the wages and other protections to which they are entitled.
Spitzer further voiced his support for a proposed community center which would relocate day laborers looking for employment off public streets. Spitzer called on the Suffolk County Legislature to move the project forward.
The Office of the Attorney General has learned of allegations that some day laborers - workers who offer their services for construction and landscaping jobs on a short-term basis - have not been paid the promised wages, and have not been provided workers' compensation coverage and wage statements that are required by state law. The OAG also will provide labor law advice to employers and workers to ensure compliance with the laws and will prosecute violations of the law in appropriate cases.
"Regardless of their legal status, these workers are entitled to the wages they were promised and the same legal protections afforded to other workers." Spitzer said. "It is imperative that we - community and government leaders - act now to reduce the atmosphere of hate, fear and intimidation that is permeating certain communities."
Spitzer's office expressed concern over recent incidents of brutality against the workers and the conditions of the shape-up sites on public streets that raised legitimate concerns for residents about public safety in the affected communities. In one incident, two men posing as contractors drove Mexican workers they had promised work to a deserted area and brutalized them with a knife and a shovel.
Because of these concerns, the Attorney General praised the Suffolk County Legislature's passage of a resolution in March to create a Community Opportunity Center that would serve as a secure place where day laborers can seek employment. Spitzer urged the Legislature to take prompt steps to move the measure forward.
"The proposed community center is a reasonable, critical component of safeguarding the workers and addressing the community's legitimate public health and safety concerns. I believe the County Executive's opposition to government support of the center is based upon a flawed interpretation of the law. Neither the creation of a shape-up site nor the activities of the Catholic Charities in running the site would be in violation of any law. Catholic Charities will not be recruiting, hiring, or referring day laborers for a fee. Nor will they be impeding enforcement of the immigration laws. I do not condone the violation of New York State labor laws and I will be actively working to ensure that these laws, which are designed to protect everyone who works in the state, will be enforced. Therefore, I call on the County Legislature to take an honorable and courageous step by overriding the veto."
Spitzer further condemned the actions of those who have contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance by spreading messages of anti-immigration and bigotry.
"The national-origin discrimination and anti-immigration messages are not only dangerous, but are unwise. Every one of us who considers ourselves a leader must be united in a stand against those who seek to divide us by targeting certain segments of our communities." The Attorney General's task force will consist of representatives from the AG's Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester regional offices, the AG's Civil Rights Bureau, which is headed by Bureau Chief Andrew G. Celli, and the Labor Bureau, which is headed by Bureau Chief M. Patricia Smith.
The Labor Bureau is responsible for enforcing the state's labor laws. The Bureau has had a series of major victories in protecting the rights of workers. Some of these cases include a first-of-its kind settlement that provides wages and benefits to predominantly Hispanic workers in the green grocer industry, criminal prosecution of an operator of a Chinese sweat shop, and landmark relief for African delivery workers who suffered labor abuses.