WJCNY has filed suit in New York’s Supreme Court against the private, for-profit company, Akima Global Services (AGS), for its exploitation of detained immigrants at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, NY. Plaintiffs Bounam Phimasone and Dalila Yeend allege that, while detained, they were hired by AGS to perform manual labor in the facility. Instead of wages, AGS paid Mr. Phimasone and Ms. Yeend $1 per day in commissary credit, regardless of hours worked.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday afternoon, alleges that AGS’s practice of crediting detainees one dollar per day for many hours of labor violates the New York State Constitution and various provisions of the Labor Law, including minimum wage. It also alleges that AGS unjustly enriched itself through this exploitative practice. AGS contracts with the federal government to operate the Buffalo Federal Detention Center and is paid a daily rate for each bed filled per day. By requiring detainee-employees to perform essential functions at well below the legal minimum wage, AGS avoids hiring non-detained employees to work for fair market wages, thereby depressing the local economy and increasing its own profits.Read more
On Tuesday, August 11th, farmworkers and advocates from across New York State convened a day of action and virtual press conference, calling on the state legislature to protect farmworkers and all essential workers from future waves of COVID-19. Coinciding with the day of action, the Times Union ran an opinion piece authored by WJCNY's Director of Advocacy, Outreach and Education on Why farmworkers need basic COVID protections.
Watch the full press conference here:
WJCNY has won a major legal victory, securing $900,000 in unpaid wages for former employees of the Mt. Kisco Diner.
On top of the wages owed, the diner will owe 10 percent interest which has accrued since March 10.
“This case should send a clear message that exploiting workers is not only unjust, but also a losing business proposition,” said Maureen Hussain, WJCNY labor and employment attorney.
“Mt. Kisco Diner’s owners are now required to get anti-discrimination training and allow periodic inspections of their records by the Worker Justice Center of New York,” Hussain added. “Our clients hope this will help ensure the company changes its practices and treats its employees fairly.”
WJCNY filed the class action labor violations lawsuit against Mt. Kisco Diner’s owners in April. According to the lawsuit, the diner’s owners violated the minimum wage, overtime, tip credit and unlawful deductions provisions of the federal Fair Labor Stands Act
WJCNY stands in unqualified solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Our mission demands that we embrace the nationwide movement that has coalesced in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd. Racial justice and freedom from violence (whether interpersonal or state-sanctioned) are core commitments that WJCNY is bound to uphold at every level of the organization, in both our public-facing work as well as internally.
After months of calling on Governor Cuomo and New York State lawmakers to take immediate action to protect farmworkers from COVID-19, we are pleased to share the news that NY's Department of Health, Department of Labor, and Department of Agriculture & Markets have finally released guidance documents aimed at addressing the threat COVID-19 presents to our state's farmworkers and their families.Read more
The Syracuse Post-Standard recently published an op-ed on the coronavirus outbreak among greenhouse workers in Central New York which was co-written by WJCNY Advocacy Director Emma Kreyche.
The latest testing showed 169 of Green Empire Farms’ 250 workers tested positive for COVID-19. When those workers arrived to work in the company’s greenhouses in December, the housing which was planned onsite had not been built, so they were crammed into local hotels.
When workers living in the hotels contracted the disease, it spread rapidly in the overcrowded, communal spaces.
The fast infection rate highlighted the state’s failure to protect these and other vulnerable workers from the coronavirus, as well as abusive and negligent employers.
The state Public Health Law requires employers secure a permit for operating migrant housing facilities. However, they often use hotels for housing workers instead.
We at WJCNY, along with local farmworkers, have for months been warning state officials that the often unsanitary conditions migrant and seasonal workers are pushed into by employers could provide the perfect conditions for COVID-19 to spread.
We are asking Governor Cuomo for immediate emergency health and safety regulations for agricultural operations, and to ensure farmworkers can access proper quarantine housing if they are infected or have been exposed to the virus.
Photo: N. Scott Trimble, Syracuse.com
The Worker Justice Center of New York has filed the first lawsuit of its kind over unpaid overtime wages against Wayne County-based Smith Family Farms and Smith Family Acres. The complaint alleges that the agricultural employer violated the recently enacted Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act.Read more
We are calling on Governor Cuomo and New York State lawmakers to take immediate action to protect farmworkers from COVID-19 and support those who have already been impacted. The agricultural workforce is essential to New York’s economy and to the security of our food supply, yet farmworkers remain unprotected and vulnerable to both infection and extreme economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus.Read more
By: John Marsella, Senior Staff Attorney
In another week filled with news of the global pandemic, it would have been easy to overlook May 1 as just another day in quarantine. However, stopping to recognize the significance of International Workers’ Day is as important during the COVID-19 outbreak as it has ever been.
The celebration of the working classes dates to May of 1886, when members of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions gathered in Chicago’s Haymarket Square to strike and demand an eight-hour workday.
The event began as a peaceful rally, but it ended with violence. A bomb killed several police officers and civilians. Labor activists, immigrants and union sympathizers were arrested and interrogated. The ensuing trial was widely considered a sham, and seven individuals were convicted and sentenced to death.
The hysteria surrounding the event and government-backed repression invigorated people who sought to advance workplace justice. The Haymarket Riot inspired the creation of International Workers’ Day, a day for laborers to band together and seek better working conditions.Read more