October 25, 2016
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Minimum wage not an option but the law


Minimum wage not an option but the law; undocumented workers also covered, NYC ethnic media informed

Terri Gerstein, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Department of Labor; Maritere Arce, Director, Bureau of Immigrant Workers Rights; Jehangir Khattak, Communications Manager, New York Community Media Alliance; Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer, SEIU; andRajesh Nayak, Staff Attorney NELP. – Photo by Majeed Babar

NEW YORK, July 27, 2009 -- New York's ethnic and community media was informed at a press briefing on Monday, July 27th, that implementation of minimum wage increase to $ 7.25 an hour by the employers was not an option but the law.

The New York Community Media Alliance organized the briefing in collaboration with the CUNY TV, the NYS Department of Labor, Bureau of Immigrant Workers Rights, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and National Employment Law Project (NELP) at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Minimum wage went up from $7.15/hour to $7.25/hour in New York State and from $6.55/hour to $7.25/hour nationwide from July 24th.

Terri Gerstein, Deputy Commissioner, New York Department of Labor; Maritere Arce, Director, Department of Labor Bureau of Immigrant Workers Rights; Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer, SEIU; and Rajesh D. Nayak, Staff Attorney NELP briefed the media on the significance of the wage increase and the challenges in its implementation.

Terri Gerstein said the Department of Labor (DOL) would ensure the enforcement of minimum wage. She said undocumented workers were also covered by the minimum wage and explained that the DoL did not ask for the legal status of a worker.

Maritere Arce, Director, Bureau of Immigrant Workers Rights, said New York City's 3 million immigrant population was contributing 229 billion dollars to the state's economy each year which accounted for 22.4 percent of the total New York State GDP. She said the Bureau held training and know-your-rights workshops, town hall meetings and roundtable discussions to educate the workers about their rights and to encourage them to contact the DOL, should their rights be violated. She said the Bureau would welcome any partnership with community based organizations for the protection of immigrant workers rights.

More than 48 journalists representing different New York-based ethnic and community media organizations attended the press briefing. – Photo by  Majeed Babar

Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer, SEIU welcomed the increase in minimum wage. “However we think this increase is not as much as is required in this challenging economy,” he added. He said the SEIU would continue its outreach to the working class for the protection of its rights. He commended the work being done by the BIWR and the DOL but stressed that greater outreach was required in the immigrant communities.

Rajesh D. Nayak; Staff Attorney, NELP, called the 10 cents increase in the minimum wage as “modest”. Citing different studies, he said, many workers were not even being paid the minimum wage. A big majority of such underpaid workers were from immigrant communities. He pointed at lack of understanding and knowledge about the minimum wage amongst immigrants. “Before people take action, they have to know about the law. But right now, a lot of workers have no idea about the minimum wage,” he said. Complementing the efforts of DOL and BIWR, Rajesh stressed that creating greater awareness amongst immigrant workers about the minimum wage and their rights required involvement of all the stakeholders.

The issue of tipped workers also echoed at the briefing. Terri Gerstein explained that for service workers, who received tips, the minimum wage was lower but the salary plus tip must always equal at least $7.25 per hour. She said the DoL had completed several investigations against car washes in the city which were violating their workers rights. Replying a question, she said it was illegal on part of any employer to withhold part of the tip from a worker – a practice rampant in the livery industry. She asked all such workers to contact the DoL if they find their rights being violated.

The press briefing was attended by about 48 journalists representing New York's different ethnic and community publications, TV and radio channels.

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