Schnirman announces hotline to report underpaying vendors

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Nassau Comptroller Jack Schnirman announces a hotline on Thursday for workers who are being underpaid by county vendors. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman announced on Thursday a new, multilingual wage hotline that allows workers to report county vendors that are underpaying their employees.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that in 2018, working with this team, there is a new energy behind the living wage audit process,” Schnirman said during a press conference at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 338 in Mineola. “It is a vital function of our office.”

The hotline number is 516-571-WAGE and is available in both English and Spanish.

Callers will be connected with staff at the Comptroller’s Office during business hours to either report a violation or to inquire about the living wage law, such as how to find out if their job is covered. Tips can be submitted anonymously.

Those who call outside of business hours will reach an automated menu — available in both languages — with instructions on how to leave a message or learn more about the living wage law.

Schnirman said that information on the living wage law is provided over the phone since not all workers have access to the internet. He also said that future improvements would increase language accessibility, such as a protocol that would ensure a translator is reached in a timely manner.

“Providing this number is a major step forward for equity as well as access,” he said.

The announcement came on the heels of an increase in the living wage for Nassau County. Starting on Aug. 1, the living wage is $16.41 per hour for employees without health benefits and $14.27 per hour for employees with benefits.

Those were increases from $16.07 and $13.98, respectively.

The living wage law was passed by the county more than a decade ago and in the ensuing 10 years more than $1 million was recovered by the comptroller’s office for workers, Schnirman said. A spokesman for the comptroller said that investigations usually takes three to six months and that several were currently ongoing.

The law applies to most county vendors with some exceptions.

Contracts for child care services, worth less than $25,000, or employees under age 18 working summer jobs are not eligible. A full list of exemptions can be found online.

The focus on living wages was praised by John D’Urso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and RWDSU Local 338.

“The comptroller’s announcement today was so very important for the men and women of the various vendors of Nassau County,” he said. “It is a major step into the quality of life for the people who work in Nassau County and it enables them to not just work here… but to be able to live here.”

He said many workers were afraid to report underpayment due to retribution from higher-ups, but the tipline would allow them to do so without fear.

“The idea for establishing a tip line, I would really have liked to have taken credit for it, but I didn’t think of it, his team did,” D’Urso joked. “But in a couple of years, I’ll just say it was my idea.”

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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