On Friday, Aug. 21, west Bronx Councilman and Congressional Candidate Ritchie Torres announced finalized legislation that will restructure the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs into the Department of Consumer & Worker Protection, giving the agency more leverage to secure restitution for exploited workers.
The DCWP, which will come to fruition by the end of August, will also have full authority to investigate and impose penalties on employers who have violated workers rights within the five boroughs.
“The most powerful local government in the world is now on the side of workers,” Torres said.
He continued to explain the reformation of DCA came after an administrative court denied the agency to seek financial restitution for immigrant consumers from a company selling “ID for ICE” cards which falsely implied said identification would give them exemption from deportation.
“We have passed a law that ensures that injustice never repeats itself again,” Torres said.
Torres was joined by now former DCA and now DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas upon making the announcement in his Bronx district office.
“The laws that protect workers in New York City and that protect consumers mean nothing if at the end of the day we cannot guarantee that they will be made whole for the violations they suffered,” Salas said.
She gave the example of a recent settlement for a Chipotle worker who was “illegally fired from the company” and has been reinstated since with an estimated $8,000 of restitution granted.
“We can make sure at the end of the day again the court will recognize that workers and consumers come first and that they must get the money that they are due,” the commissioner added.
Torres reiterated the sentiment of giving wrongfully treated workers fair leverage over massive companies, saying “you’re not alone, we’re here to fight for you.”