Governor Also Announces New Statewide Worker Exploitation Task Force

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Thursday aimed at providing greater protections for workers in New York’s nail salons.

The measure was pushed through Albany in May shortly after the New York Times profiled nail salon workers and the conditions they face.

The legislation gives the Department of State power to shutter unlicensed salons. It also adds sex trafficking to the list of criminal convictions that would bar an owner from obtaining a license, 1010 WINS reported.

Additionally, new nail salon workers can now register with the state as trainees so that they can make a living while they study for their licensing exam.

Many nail salon workers were on hand for the bill signing in the Bronx, CBS2’s Alive Gainer reported.

“Nail workers are not just workers, they are human beings too,” said one worker.

“We were working 10 hour days,” said another woman.

While signing the nail salon legislation Thursday, Cuomo also announced a brand new multi-agency task force that will work to root out worker exploitation in 14 different industries in New York.

“We’re gonna form a joint task force. We have 700 investigators in the state of New York who are going to be investigating these violations with all these businesses all across the state of New York,” Cuomo said.

The task force, building off of the nail salon worker legislation, is expected to put a stop to illegal practices such as wage theft, human trafficking, retaliation, unsafe or unsanitary working conditions, unstable or unscheduled hours and illegal deductions for supplies, training or uniforms.

The task force will investigate alleged illegal practices in the following industries based on referrals from advocacy groups as well as complaints made to the state: nail salons, farming, child care, cleaning, home health care, laundry, restaurants, retail, construction, landscaping, car washes, supermarkets, janitorial services, and truck and waste disposal drivers.

Cuomo’s office said the industries were chosen based on geographic or community isolation of the industry’s workforce, danger of the occupation based on reported death rates, prevalence of off the books employment by industry, statewide investigator experiences and statistics and percentage of the immigrant workforce in each industry.

Cuomo said regardless of immigration status, worker protection laws apply to everyone.

“And it’s not about documented or undocumented; it’s about fair wages and fair pay and fair hours,” the governor said. “In the eyes of the state, an undocumented worker is a worker. Just like a legal, documented worker — and hours and overtime, the same laws apply.”

Cuomo said the task force should serve as an example for the rest of the country, taking a swipe at Donald Trump, who is surging in the polls after incendiary comments about Mexican immigrants, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

“This is how you treat immigrants and this is how you welcome immigrants to New York and this nation,” Cuomo said.

The governor is also asking customers to do more and ask businesses “Are you paying minimum wage? Are you paying overtime? Are you giving them vacation time?”

But will New Yorkers do it?

“Not to give fair wages is, I think, irresponsible. But I’m gonna say no because a lot of times the employer may not hire,” said Ben Roman, of Manhattan.

“They do a day’s work and they work just as hard as anybody else. I would ask them,” said Norma Mcneal, of the Bronx.

“Probably like a 50-50 chance,” said one man.

Anyone with information on suspected worker exploitation or abuse is urged to contact the task force at 1-888-469-7365. Callers can remain anonymous.

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