Open Letter to NYC Hospitality Alliance

The SWEAT (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) Coalition represents workers, advocates, law-abiding businesses and community members who want our basic wage laws and labor laws to be enforced in our state. Wage theft deprives hundreds of thousands of workers of upwards of $1 billion a year. While employers who do not abide by our wage laws have proliferated in the past decade, we are certain that your organization does not represent their interests, but that of the employers who do abide by the law.
Unfortunately, in the last weeks, your organization has been impeding the passage of the SWEAT bill from passing through our state’s legislature. You have implied that we workers lie in courts and are gaming the system against employers. This cannot be further from the truth. In fact, more and more, workers are going through years of processes either through the Department of Labor or the court system, are winning their cases, yet do not receive the money that the Department of Labor and the courts say they are owed. More often than not, it is employers who don’t bother to show up to the court, or use delay tactics to drag out investigations and lawsuits, and use that time to transfer and hide their assets. It is true that many workers go to court or file complaints at the Department of Labor repeatedly, but that simply is a testament to the failings of our weak laws and enforcement mechanisms. By currying sympathy for unscrupulous employers who ruthlessly and insistently exploit the weaknesses of the current law to make more profit off the backs of their workers, you hurt your own base of employers who aim to do the right thing. Moreover, during this pandemic when workers, their families, and many businesses are struggling, it is unconscionable that scofflaw employers use the pandemic to justify cheating their workers of their pay.
The SWEAT bill does not impose new burdens on doing business, and only seeks to make our basic minimum wage and overtime laws enforceable. If there is a problem with the law, we should change it. But shouldn’t the laws in our state be abided by and shouldn’t all of us, both workers and employers, encourage our laws to be followed? Lawless behavior and the mockery that the most unscrupulous bosses are making of our court and government enforcement systems shouldn’t be defended by anyone. 
The SWEAT bill will in fact help to alleviate burdensome court proceedings by helping to bring wage claims to resolutions promptly as wage lien statutes have done in Maryland and Wisconsin. It will hopefully stop wage theft from becoming a normalized business model and help workers and employers who abide by the law. 
Workers wages shouldn’t be treated with such little regard in our state. Criminal behavior should not be condoned and encouraged. Not by any employer and definitely not by nonprofit organizations who claim to represent the interests of employers. You do a disservice to your members and give all employers a bad name.
We urge you to support the SWEAT bill. For the interest of everyone in New York State.