Workers Rights Organization Helps Employees Fight Wage Theft as Similar Cases Skyrocket Amid COVID

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Immigrants, Immigration, Media, Queens, NY

By Emily Drooby

Fourteen workers in New York City are out $29,000 wages they say were stolen. 

Osmar Cruz is one of them, claiming he’s owed for almost two months of work and that he and his colleagues were fired after speaking up. 

“We have nothing in our pockets, and we really need the money,” he told Currents News.

Desperate for help, he and others turned to the Worker’s Justice Project, a Brooklyn-based immigrant workers’ rights organization. 

Osmar came to the U.S. five years ago. 

“Some people are crying because they don’t have anything to feed their families,” he explained.

Worker’s Justice Project says wage theft has become prevalent during the pandemic. Before they used to see about four cases a week, now they see at least 12. it’s happening at all kinds of jobs: delivery, construction and domestic work. 

Worker’s Justice Project put together a protest for Osmar and his colleagues outside of 430 East 58th Street, where the workers earned their wages. It’s a luxury building that pierces the sky. 

“Our families, our children, they’re asking for food and we don’t have anything,” Osmar said, “and now it’s the holidays they’re asking for their gifts and we don’t have anything to give them. So that’s why we are protesting.” 

They’re protesting for their money, and for their jobs back. 

In this case the workers say Cassway Contracting hired a subcontractor, Mario Infante, and he hired them. The workers are holding both accountable for the money. 

Speaking to Currents News, the subcontractor  said Cassway also owes them a large sum of money, adding that as a small company waiting for it has been very difficult. 

Cassway contracting has yet to return a request for comment. 

But they did answer the workers – calling them during the protest – to set up another call, essentially the first step of negotiations. 

Worker’s Justice Project tells Currents News this is a step in the right direction, but the hard work is not yet done. They’ve still got negotiations ahead of them, and if those fall through, potentially more protests. That means more time before these workers get the money they so desperately need.