WJCNY staff members were honored to be invited to serve as panelists during this year’s SOMOS Conference which took place this past weekend in Albany. SOMOS, Inc., is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization committed to addressing the needs of the Hispanic population of New York State in collaboration with the NYS Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. The SOMOS conferences serve as a platform for legislators, scholars, business and labor leaders to address various concerns pertinent to our state’s Hispanic community.
Emma Kreyche, Statewide Coordinator of the Green Light Campaign, spoke on a panel entitled “Equal Access to Driver’s Licenses for all New Yorkers,” explaining why it is essential for immigrant New Yorkers to obtain driver’s licenses. For many of the immigrant workers served by WJCNY, public transportation is inadequate, unreliable or simply non-existent. Individuals need to have access to drivers’ licenses so they can go about essential daily tasks - going to the grocery store, picking up children from school, going to a doctor’s appointment – safely and without fear of detention or deportation. This panel was live-streamed by Univision.
Andrea Callan, Managing Director, spoke on a panel entitled “Protecting NYS’ Most Vulnerable Workers” and focused her comments on the pervasive practice of wage theft – when an employer fails to pay an employee the legally-mandated minimum wage, promised wage or overtime wages. Andrea brought the farmworker perspective to the panel, highlighting that this population of workers suffers a form of wage theft that is currently legally permissible under current state and federal law - farmworkers are legally exempt from earning overtime wages. To remedy this exemption from the state law, WJCNY supports the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, a state bill that would permit farmworkers the same rights to overtime, collective bargaining, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and a day of rest that almost all other workers in NY already enjoy.