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Workers reminded of rights to safety

State Assemblymen Francisco Moya (l.) and Rory Lancman (c.) discuss the rights immigrant workers have at Make the Road New York in Corona. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

State Assemblymen Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) told immigrants at Make the Road New York’s Corona office last week that if they are working in a hazardous or discriminatory environment, they can get recourse regardless of their legal status.

“Our laws are here to keep them safe,” Lancman said.

The Fresh Meadows-based assemblyman is the chairman of the Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety and Moya is the representative for Corona, where the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road has its Queens offices, at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave.

At a news conference last Thursday, both assemblymen tried to impress upon the audience that they did not need to fear going to the authorities for help if they had a problem involving safety or discrimination.

Lancman said immigrants experience problems more often due to language barriers and fear of retaliation.

“They have a right to a safe workplace,” Lancman said. “They have a right not to be discriminated against in any way.”

The conference was meant to kick off Lancman’s second weekend of what is to be an annual event to raise awareness of workers’ rights and places they can go for help. This year’s event will run from Sept. 15 to Sept. 16, and during it legislators will be partnering with groups across the state in immigrant communities.

Lancman said that in his capacity as workplace safety chairman he hears many stories of immigrants being treated unfairly in many different types of fields, from construction to service industry.

Moya, an Ecuadorian American, said his office also hears many cases of immigrants being paid off the books. Since his district, which covers parts of Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst, has a large Latino population, Moya said being a Latino himself has opened up an avenue of trust between him and his constituents.

“We know what it means to live in fear,” Moya said. “We know what it means to take whatever job we can get because we need to provide for our family.”

Deborah Axt, of Make the Road New York, praised the assemblymen not only for their work on this issue, but also their advocacy on other immigrant issues like the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which requires employers to spell out wages in writing, and the Dream Fund, which businesses pay into to create a fund for the children of immigrants who have grown up in the United States to help them go to college.

“It’s time to stand up,” Axt said. “We can get up and defend our rights.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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