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$400,000 in Stolen Wages Returned to Workers

Posted on June 2, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

High-Profile Win for Low-Profile Workers

One dollar, one once-exploited worker at a time, Catholic Charities with the Westchester Labor Alliance yanked back from dishonest employers nearly $400,000 in stolen wages, returning the income to the impoverished men and women who earned it. They assisted more than 12,000 men and women in over the past five years recover stolen wages across a broad range of sectors including construction, restaurant, beauty salons, barber shops and more.

In Westchester, a County Synonymous for Wealth

Spokespersons for the group gathered recently in front of Don Bosco Community Center in Portchester, a center built in 1928 to help Italian-American immigrants find work, socialize and learn trades.  Now, nearly a century later the organization represents the county’s newest arrivals, Central Americans, who, desperate to feed their families, too often work for less than minimum wage in unsafe jobs without protection.  The Westchester Labor Alliance represents them.  These vulnerable men and women often speak little English and lack legal status, making them easy targets for wealthy employers to intentionally exploit.

“It’s not just an economic crime; it’s a moral crime,” New York State Assembly Member Steven Otis on said at the event.

 Member groups in this Robin Hood-like alliance span much of Westchester County.  They include Catholic Charities of Yonkers Obreros Unidos (Workers United), Don Bosco Workers, Inc. in Port Chester; Community Resource Center in Mamaroneck; United Community Center of New Rochelle, Neighbors Link in Mt. Kisco and the Empire Justice Center in White Plains.

Together, they educate, empower and advocate for day laborers, making sure laws enacted to protect all workers protect America’s newest arrivals as well.  Westchester Labor Alliance also provide workers and their families with English classes, tutoring, emergency food, housing and immigration assistance; the wide swath of services for which Catholic Charities is known.

High-Profile Win for Low-Profile Workers

In the organization’s most recent high profile success, they reprented five women who were the plaintiffs in a case brought against Elise’s Food and More in Port Chester with the first $15,000 of a $47,000 total restitution granted.  

Wage theft had not only robbed these women of their ability to pay for rent and food but also put competing employers who pay legal wages at an economic disadvantage. 

“Wage theft is not just about taking someone’s money,” said Stephanie from Neighbors Link.  “It’s robbing someone of their dignity and respect.”

The sad reality is that immigrants are common targets for exploitation.  Dishonest landlords, employers, “notarios” and attorneys often prey on immigrants’ fears.  And their high-cost scams can cause problems for years to come.

Catholic Charities’ qualified staff works to prevent this exploitation.  We provide honest information in multiple languages and solid legal advice.  We also operate the New York State New Americans Hotline.

Do you know of an exploited worker in Westchester who needs help?

Call us  at 1-800-566-7636

Learn more about Catholic Charities immigration services.