At virtually the last minute on New Year’s Eve, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed the SWEAT Act designed to curb wage theft in New York. If Cuomo hadn’t vetoed the bill by the end of the year, it would have gone into effect, even without his signature.

For New York workers, who have $1 billion a year in wages stolen from them by employers, it is not a Happy New Year.

The Securing Wages Against Theft, or SWEAT Act, has been before the state legislature for five years, but only passed both houses last June. Cuomo waited until people were out celebrating the New Year to inconspicuously veto the bill.

JoAnn Lum, a longtime organizer of low-wage workers in New York City with the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, which has been a leader in the fight for the SWEAT Act, called Cuomo’s last minute veto a “slap in the face.””

Green Party activist Mark Dunlea said that for Cuomo “to literally wait until New Year’s Eve to veto the bill is just outrageous, and shameful.” Dunlea helped draft the bill drawing on his experience as director for 30 years of the anti-poverty Hunger Action Network of New York State. He is currently chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund where he focuses on the climate crisis.

Workers often win their wage theft cases in court, but they have hard time collecting their back pay because the businesses sued often hide their assets by going out of business and then re-opening under a new name to resume stealing workers’ wages.

The SWEAT Act would remedy the hidden assets problem by enabling workers to apply a court-ordered lien at the onset of litigation to immediately freeze the owners’ assets instead of waiting for the court to award a judgment after the employer has maneuvered to hide their assets.

Cuomo was the “lesser evil” Democrat in the 2018 gubernatorial election. I also ran, coming in third out of five candidates behind Cuomo and the Republican. I campaigned for the SWEAT Act. Cuomo campaigned for money. He filled his campaign coffers with over $100 million from the Wall Street and real estate barons who dominate New York politics.

Cuomo’s veto of the SWEAT Act demonstrates once again why working people cannot count on the corporate-indentured Democrats for anything — and why the Green Party needs to be the pro-worker alternative.

Howie Hawkins 2020

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