Legislation needed to ensure wage theft victims collect money, not just pieces of paper

Action is needed to combat America's wage theft epidemic. Unfortunately, there are countless heartbreaking stories of workers who are underpaid -- or simply not paid -- by their employers. Even worse, after the department of labor or a court finds that workers are owed money, they are often unable to collect anything from the employer. This video featuring former workers of the Chinese restaurant Mei Shi Lin in Flushing, Queens presents an all-too typical story. After the department of labor determined that the employees were owed years of back wages in excess of $100,000, the boss closed the restaurant the next day and requested that the workers accept a fraction of that amount. The workers are still struggling to collect what they are owed.

The SWEAT coalition has introduced a bill to combat this problem, which was passed by the Assembly last week. The bill makes the existing mechanic's lien mechanism available to workers in all industries and facilitates workers with meritorious wage claims to freeze employers' assets before they can be hidden or transferred. Other states have already enacted such common-sense measures. It is now time for the Senate to act responsibly and pass the SWEAT bill.