It’s Time to Act

New York State’s low wage workers–the super exploited–need better wages and working conditions!

In July, Governor Cuomo announced the formation of a state-wide Task Force to “root out worker exploitation issues” across the state. It includes 10 government agencies. There also is an Advisory Committee of representatives from community groups, unions and employers. They are to make recommendations by December, 2015 about improving life for workers in these jobs:

Car Washers -Home Health Care -Restaurants -Childcare-Cleaning -Janitorial Services -Retail -Construction

-Landscaping -Supermarkets -Laundry -Farming -Nail Salons -Truck and Waste Disposal Drivers

What can you and your organization do?

  1. Tell Advisory Committee members what you think needs to be done to prevent wage theft, and improve other working conditions for super-exploited workers. Send your ideas, recommendations and comments to Lewis Papenfause ( He will pass them along to other Advisory Committee members.
  2. Join the Occupational Health Clinic Center (OHCC) to make links between unhealthy and unsafe jobs, wage theft and other working conditions. The OHCC in Syracuse has done a variety of work with and for low wages workers, including temps. Out latest effort is the report, Healthy Work in Syracuse? Conversations with low-wage workers. (Check our website for a copy.)

We’ll use what we’ve learned to write a document that sets the context, contains workers’ stories (especially about health and safety hazards) and makes short and long-term recommendations for the meaningful and needed changes. We need your help to do that.

Have stories about low wage workers’ experiences with unsafe or unhealthy jobs? Ideas about what needs to be done to stop that happening? Want to get your voice into our presentation and recommendations?

The Clinic’s Dorothy Wigmore ( or 315-432-8899 x 127) will take your contributions or help write up your stories and ideas. We’d also be happy to add your organization’s name to the recommendations that we’ll share with you.

  1. Share information, photos and graphics for allies, the Advisory Committee and others to use. Dorothy Wigmore ( will co-ordinate setting up and using an on-line place for background research. It will be materials to share with allies, the Advisory Committee, the Task Forces (i.e., government departments), and decision-makers. There will be sub-folders for studies, reports, graphics, stories, and miscellaneous materials.
  2. Work together to follow up on all our collective recommendations. It’s not enough to tell the stories of low wage workers’ life on the job and make recommendations about necessary changes.

We all need to follow up to make sure the Task Force, Advisory Committee and decision-makers “get” what needs to be done to really prevent and end worker exploitation.

We need to push for short and long-term solutions, not just what is convenient at the moment. They include:

  • recognizing and dealing with systemic barriers
  • how to better enforce current laws and regulations
  • penalties against employers who violate the rules (and how to use that money)
  • new regulations and legislation to prevent employers from exploiting workers
  • how existing resources–the organizations that represent and/or work with super-exploited workers–can be supported to do and accomplish more, especially Upstate.

This will be most effective if we collaborate–whether our focus is on health and safety, wages, or other working conditions. It’s time to connect these issues that really are about equality, fairness and justice on the job. In that spirit, we look forward to working with you.

Rebecca Fuentes                                            Michael Lax                               Lew Papenfuse                                                      Lead Organizer                                               Medical Director                      Executive Director                                         Worker’s Center of Central NY                   OHCC                                           Worker Justice                                                      Syracuse                                                         Syracuse, Canton &  Bing.       Center of NY Rochester



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