Fighting Back against Wage Theft
Immigrant workers often fall victim to wage theft by unscrupulous employers who threaten to turn over workers to ICE if the workers report wage violations to authorities. Wage theft hurts the taxpayers of New Jersey because employers who refuse to pay minimum and overtime wages are more likely to fail to pay payroll, workers compensation and other taxes, robbing state coffers annually of millions. Even when workers win judgments for unpaid wages from the New Jersey Department of Labor or in court, many employers fail to pay, changing the name of their business or declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying workers. Princeton, Jersey City, Highland Park, East Orange, New Brunswick, and Newark passed local ordinances refusing to renew the licenses of businesses that have been found to owe wages to their employees either by a court or the state Department of Labor. Numerous advocates have supporting these efforts, including the National Employment Law Project, in recent testimony in support of current policies proposed in our legislature.
NJAIJ urges the state to extend the statute of limitations from 2 to 6 years and establish liquidated damages in order to deter unscrupulous employers from stealing wages. Our state can raise the standards against abusive wage theft practices and to protect immigrant workers by making sure all workers receive the wages their owed and that employers who violate the law are held accountable.
Workers’ Rights, not “Right to Work"
Low wage workers are some of the most vulnerable people in our workforce and are often victims of exploitation and bad working conditions. Unions use collective power to increase wages and improve working conditions. When workers have the right to organize and negotiate their salaries, our economies succeed. Many immigrant workers labor in sectors that require union support to protect their safety and a living wage that allows them to make ends meet. Research shows that “right to work” laws drive down wages, benefits, and overall living standards and do not assist in job creation.
NJAIJ stands with workers and supports their right to organize. We urge our state leadership to commit to opposing any “Right to Work” legislation and to stand against any efforts from the federal government to harm the rights of workers.
Safety at Work
Many immigrant workers make a living in jobs that include hazardous conditions. Immigrant workers helped us rebuild the Jersey shore while putting their health in danger by coming in contact with mold and other dangerous conditions. Many of these workers do not have Labor rights are extended to all workers regardless of immigration status. It is imperative that we prioritize holding employers accountable when they violate Health and Safety laws and demanding that all workers are given the right equipment and training to stay safe while at work.
NJAIJ urges our state to prioritize the health and safety of all workers in our state by holding employers accountable for not adhering to Health and Safety laws and increasing training worker health and safety programs for workers.