News & Commentary

June 23, 2023

Greg Volynsky

Greg Volynsky is a student at Harvard Law School.

In Today’s News & Commentary, the New York State Assembly passes a bill to enhance penalties for wage theft, Georgetown University to pay up to $550,000 to settle wage theft allegations, Los Angeles voters to determine whether to cap hospital executive pay, ProPublica staff unionize, and more than 3,000 Starbucks baristas plan to strike.

A bill that would criminalize wage theft as felony larceny is set to reach Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk. The legislation, which received the approval of the state Assembly this week, aims to enhance penalties for employers who cheat workers out of their wages. The bill also seeks to help prosecutors identify habitual offenders. Business groups in New York have expressed concerns about the proposed changes, pointing to existing federal laws and the potential additional burden on employers. Labor groups and state Attorney General Letitia James back the measure. The bill comes four months after the Manhattan District Attorney announced a new unit to prosecute wage theft.

In related news, on Tuesday, Georgetown University agreed to pay up to $550,000 to settle allegations that certain hourly employees worked unpaid overtime. The settlement, announced by the D.C. attorney general’s office, stems from an investigation into Georgetown’s overtime practices following a tip from a whistleblower last year. 

Los Angeles voters will have the chance to determine, by ballot measure, if hospital executive compensation should be capped at $450,000 per annum. The proposed cap would apply to top officials including CEOs, CFOs, and executive VPs at privately-owned hospitals and affiliated facilities in Los Angeles. The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West union supports the measure, arguing that executive compensation in the healthcare sector is excessive. The Hospital Association of Southern California opposes the proposal, claiming that it would undermine the ability to recruit and retain top talent. 

On Wednesday, staff of the nonprofit investigative newsroom ProPublica announced they are unionizing. The ProPublica Guild will represent reporters, editors, designers, and business and communications staff at the organization. According to the guild, 90% of eligible staff have signed union cards, making ProPublica the latest national publication to gain union representation. 

More than 3,000 Starbucks baristas are planning a strike, the Starbucks Workers United Union announced on Friday, in response to alleged instructions to remove LGBTQ-themed decorations from the stores. Starbucks has denied the allegations, claiming it staunchly supports the LGBTQ+ community. 

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