Alongside Comptroller and labor leaders, County Executive strengthens worker protections
MINEOLA, NY – Nassau County Executive Laura Curran today was joined by Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman and John Durso, President of RWDSU Local 338 and Chair of the Office of the Nassau County Comptroller’s Living Wage Advisory Board in announcing changes to the County Executive’s Rules on Living Wage that will close loopholes which could allow businesses to evade the County’s living wage law.
The Nassau County Living Wage Law was originally enacted in 2007 in order to raise the minimum wage of employees of most vendors with County service contracts. Its purpose is to ensure that employees of companies that Nassau County does business with are earning the living wage, receiving health benefits, and are receiving an appropriate number of paid days off.
Under the new rules signed today, the County can now review the parent and subsidiary of the vendor that has a contract with the County when determining waiver eligibility requirements. The County Executive’s Rules on the Living Wage allow contractors to waive the Living Wage requirement under certain circumstances such as a small wage gap between the highest and lowest paid employees or if it would result in a more than 10 percent increase in overall budget. The previous criteria for waiver approval did not cover whether the parent or subsidiary companies met these criteria.
“Nassau is taking action to help working class families and hold accountable the companies we do business with,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “We’re strengthening our Living Wage Law to ensure employees of County contractors receive fair compensation for the work they do. The loophole we closed today allowed companies to appear smaller than they actually were to avoid paying their workers a living wage.”
“Closing this living wage loophole is protecting workers from contractors who try to game the system, using modernization to increase efficiency and putting stronger oversight rules in place to protect tax dollars,” Jack Schnirman, Nassau County Comptroller said. “If you want to do business with Nassau County, you have to play by the rules, and closing this loophole will protect workers who deliver critical services to Nassau County residents.”
“Since 2007, Nassau County’s Living Wage Law has ensured that men and women who are employed by Nassau County’s vendors receive a living wage and are compensated fairly. However, by removing loopholes in the law and further strengthening these important protections, we add additional guarantees that taxpayer dollars are being used properly and are being reinvested in our workforce” John Durso, President of RWDSU Local 338 and Chair of the Living Wage Advisory Board said. “I applaud County Executive Curran, Comptroller Schnirman, and the Living Wage Advisory Board for their commitment to ensuring that the Living Wage Law provides accountability to our County’s residents and workers”
With today’s rule change, the County Executive’s Living Wage Waiver Review Officer will consider compensation received not only from the firm named in the waiver application, but that received from “related entities.” This includes parent and subsidiary corporations or affiliates.
Since 2018, Nassau County has been holding regular meetings with the Living Wage Advisory Board. In that time, the Comptroller’s Office’s has conducted Living Wage audits that have recovered more than $250,000 for workers in unpaid wages and comp time and launched the dedicated, multilingual Living Wage Hotline (516-571-WAGE) for workers to ask questions and report contractors.
“The fact that a quarter of a million dollars has been recovered for Nassau County workers is proof positive these rules changes needed to happen,” said Onika Shepherd, a member of the Living Wage Advisory Board and 1199 SEIU Political Director. “We know most employers want to abide by the county’s living wage law, but there are some who will use any tactic to avoid paying proper wages. These new rules will hopefully end that practice and put more money in workers’ wallets.
Nassau County’s departments will continue to partner with the Comptroller’s Office to respond to employee complaints and inquiries received and monitor providers that were reviewed previously to ensure that they remain in compliance with the Law. In 2018, 9 waiver requests were made, with 1 being denied and 2 being partially-granted. So far in 2019, 12 waiver requests have been made, with 4 having already been granted and the rest currently under review.