WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES MAY 27, 2021 13
We must stop wage theft that threatens our working class
BY JOSEPH A. GEIGER
Wage theft has victimized the working class
for far too long. For decades, crooked
contractors have fl own under the radar in
broad daylight and built their million-dollar bank
accounts by stealing the wages of workers who don’t
know their rights or are too afraid to report the
The fear of being fi red or blackballed for speaking
up by powerful contractors has scared many of these
workers into silence. We must put the lives and dignity
of our fellow New Yorkers ahead of contractor
greed and end wage theft once and for all.
The construction industry creates thousands of jobs
and builds critical infrastructure that is vital to New
York’s recovery. Developers eager to squeeze every
last cent of profi t from their workers have unleashed
an exploitation epidemic, paying their workers a quarter
(if they’re lucky) of what they would make under a
prevailing wage, if they’re getting paid at all.
When a worker is cheated out of their wages, we all
suff er: the worker and their family have to choose between
paying rent or buying food; wages across the
industry are depressed; and New York City loses critical
tax revenue. The fact is that wage theft is a direct
threat to the stability of New York City’s economic
well-being and our recovery from the pandemic.
The ripple eff ects of wage theft are felt not just in
New York, but throughout the economy. Across the
nation, workers and their families lose $8 billion a
year to wage theft , and construction workers alone
are robbed of $946 million annually.
A study conducted by the United Brotherhood
of Carpenters also found that corrupt contractors
withheld at least $811.1 million a year in overtime pay.
These staggering numbers bring to light not one or
two bad apples, but of a system that exploits the working
class without fear of consequences.
They say that “one bad apple can spoil the bunch.”
That is true with another money-making scheme
used by some thieving contractors.
Wage theft goes hand-in-hand with tax fraud, which
is reported on roughly 20.5 percent of construction
sites per month. Every year, unscrupulous employers
offl oad $3.5 billion of businesses’ employment
taxes onto workers, leading to a total of $8.4 billion
in state and federal tax losses.
That’s billions of dollars that should be funding
local schools, infrastructure and health care. When
there are billion-dollar tax gaps like the ones left by
wage theft and tax fraud, it’s the everyday taxpayer
that picks up the bill. These crimes aren’t only hurting
the construction industry, they are crippling
It’s time these bad actors stop cheating the system,
stealing wages out of working people’s pockets, and
corrupting our entire economy.
Allies for the working class like Senator Jessica
Ramos and Assembly member LaToya Joyner have
stepped up in the New York State Legislature by
introducing S.2766/A.3350 to combat this incessant
violation of workers’ rights. Their bill aims to end
wage theft at the top, where the liability resides. It
will ensure all workers have protection when their
employer tries to steal their paycheck.
Under S.2766/A.3350, wage-stealing practices will
be met with legal repercussions. Construction bosses
will not be able to turn a blind eye to these illegal
practices and will fi nally be held accountable for
what happens on their job sites. That accountability
will lead to more extensive vetting of contractors
and sub-contractors, safer worksites and workers
bringing home the full wages they deserve.
Meanwhile, contractors who have done the right
thing will see no change beyond fi nally having a shot
to compete on a level playing fi eld.
The District Council believes in the ideal that a
hard day’s work gets a fair day’s pay, no questions
asked. It is committed to advocating for all workers in
the construction industry, both union and non-union,
to ensure jobs, fair wages and safe job sites.
Now, it’s time for the politicians in Albany to do
the right thing for their constituents and pass the
wage theft legislation championed by Senator Ramos
and Assembly member Joyner that protects the livelihoods
of hard-working New Yorkers.
Now more than ever as we hope to rebuild back
better, we must change the culture of greed and hold
the bad accountable. We must pass S.2766/A.3350 and
end wage theft now.
Joseph A. Geiger is the executive secretary-treasurer
of the New York City and Vicinity District Council of
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