The article describes the key provisions of New York Assembly Bill 8045 (2013), legislation drafted by AALDEF, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association, NMASS, Legal Aid, and UJC.
The anti-wage-theft proposal was designed based upon challenges advocates faced collecting from small businesses in particular. The bill:
expands New York’s mechanic’s lien law to provide a “wage lien” for workers from any industry upon employer’s personal and real property;
creates a new, more easily-attainable ground for attaching defendant employers’ assets pre-judgment in New York’s civil procedure law, in wage cases — a standard virtually identical to Connecticut’s more relaxed pre-judgment attachment standard;
amends the Business Corporations Law to facilitate holding major corporate shareholders liable for unpaid wages; and
creates a remedy similar to BCL Sec. 630 as applied to LLCs to hold members accountable for wage claims.
The “employer mandate,” which was originally supposed to take effect last month, had already been delayed to Jan. 1, 2015, and now the administration says that employers with 50 to 99 employees will not have to comply until 2016 — allowing Democrats to placate business concerns and pushing the issue well beyond this year’s midterm elections.
In addition, the administration said the requirement would be put into effect gradually for employers with 100 or more employees. Employers in this category will need to offer coverage to 70 percent of full-time employees in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016 and later years, or they will be subject to tax penalties.
“Today’s final regulations phase in the standards to ensure that larger employers either offer quality affordable coverage or make an employer responsibility payment starting in 2015,” said Mark J. Mazur, the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy. The purpose of the penalty, he said, is to help offset the cost to taxpayers of providing coverage or subsidies to people who cannot get affordable health insurance at work.
Under the law, employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are generally exempt from the requirement to offer coverage.
The administration described the new policy as a form of “transition relief” to help employers adjust to requirements of the 2010 health care law.
The executive action by Obama, who is pressing Congress to pass a minimum wage hike that would cover all workers, could potentially affect tens of thousands of low-wage earners who do janitorial, dish-washing and other tasks for the federal government through contractors.
It remains uncertain whether the executive order will address the issue of disabled workers under a government program that dates to 1938 and allows employers to pay some subminimum wages — sometimes for a fraction of the prevailing minimum wage.
Under Section 14 (c), employers can obtain special minimum-wage certificates from the Labor Department. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers, many of whom would have difficulty finding work in the mainstream job market, according to their abilities. For example, if an employee produces 50% of what a non-disabled person produces, then he or she receives 50% of what that person is paid.
About 95% of roughly 420,000 workers employed under 14(c), worked in segregated work environments known as sheltered workshops, performing basic manual work that often pays by the piece. (Advocacy groups estimate fewer than 50,000 work for government contractors.)
Companies participating in the program also receive preference when it comes to federal contract awards and can receive Medicaid funds to pay for support services for the employees. Some states also provide funding to sheltered workshops
† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
Poverty as a Prison by nancy a heitzeg
“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
Before the War on Drugs became our national fixation, there was a short-lived, halfheartedly implemented War on Poverty. Would that the same amount of resources and political will been expended here. But hyper-individualism, rampant capitalism, and a political discourse that persistently racializes poverty and stigmatizes governmental assistance continue to stand in the way.
Our national failure to provide any meaningful economic opportunities for tens of millions of Americans is doubly bitter when poverty and homelessness — a realm of little to no choice – is then reframed as exactly choice, the result of some failure of “personal responsibility”.
The reality of course is that over-whelming majority of the 47 million officially poor are there because of structure and policy — low wages, lack of affordable housing, a shrinking social safety net, a decimated public education system, a host of conservative and neo-liberal “reforms – not because of flawed personal choices.
The reality is that poverty per se is a sort of prison, where choice is heavily constrained, surveillance is endless, “social services” are characterized by red-tape, condescension and increased overlap with the criminal justice system, where survival shapes daily life, and Right Now is the key consideration.
If this were not challenge enough, poverty itself is additionally criminalized via a host of federal, state and local laws, Not that this is new – but the cumulative effect of these laws in the context of the prison industrial complex, a collapsed job market, and a government bent on “privatization” is a particularly toxic mix at this moment.
To many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed. The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate.
But looked at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans..
The more important driver of the still-high poverty rate, researchers said, is the poor state of the labor market for low-wage workers and spiraling inequality. Over the last 30 years, growth has generally failed to translate into income gains for workers — even as the American labor force has become better educated and more skilled. About 40 percent of low-wage workers have attended or completed college, and 80 percent have completed high school…
But with real incomes for a vast number of middle-class and low-wage workers in decline, safety-net programs have become more instrumental in keeping families’ heads above water.The earned-income tax credit, for instance, has increased employment among single mothers and kept six million Americans above the poverty line in 2011. Food stamps, formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, kept four million Americans out of poverty in 2011.
Above all, the government has proved most successful in aiding the elderly through the New Deal-era Social Security program and the creation of Medicare in the 1960s. The poverty rate among older Americans fell to just 9 percent in 2012 from 35 percent in 1959.
Tens of thousands of low-income households across New York State who were improperly cut off or denied Food Stamps are now being issued retroactive benefits, as a result of a federal class action lawsuit filed against the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). Estimates show that over $80 million in federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be issued to well over 100,000 households this week, two-thirds of which live in New York City.
These payments will help to temporarily offset the November 1st cut in SNAP benefits for these households and will provide additional food resources, allowing families who may not have otherwise been able to, put a little extra food on their tables for Thanksgiving.
The federal cuts to SNAP hit all households with a 5% reduction in their monthly benefits. Statewide, more than 1.7 million New York households receive SNAP benefits, and the cuts in the federal program will likely cost them more than $20 million each month. Two thirds of the households facing the cuts are working families, seniors, or others who are not receiving welfare benefits.
Earlier this summer, the United States District Court in the Southern District approved the negotiated settlement in Richard C v. Proud (12 CIV 5942), which challenged OTDA’s failure to provide individuals facing SNAP employment sanctions a “second chance” to comply with program rules and stop the sanctions from going into effect.
As many as 200,000 improperly issued employment sanctions are being erased/eliminated as part of the settlement, and OTDA agreed to issue back benefits to each household in which an individual was wrongly terminated from SNAP, due to an alleged violation of program rules between August 2009 and December 2012. The back awards, which can only be used to
purchase food, will likely average approximately $400 and will be issued on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards.
If you are a class member and would like more information, please see our new “Richard C” Q&A.
In era where government is so vilified, we at Critical Mass Progress would like to consider Government for Good. Collective governance – past present and future – can work to defend/secure rights, distribute social and economic goods, provide legal recognition, jobs, healthcare and more, create opportunities via public schools, public works, and public policy that centers everyday people.