In Time for Labor Day, de Blasio Administration Announces Liz Vladeck as Head of New Office of Labor Policy and Standards

August 24, 2016

NEW YORK—The de Blasio Administration today announced the appointment of Liz Vladeck, an experienced, highly respected labor lawyer and advocate, as Deputy Commissioner of the new Office of Labor Policy and Standards (OLPS).

“The first Labor Day was celebrated here in New York City over a hundred years ago, and today we mark another important milestone in our City’s efforts to support working families,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The strong leadership of Commissioner Salas and Deputy Commissioner Vladeck will grow our ability to protect, educate and empower workers across New York City’s five boroughs.”

The announcement comes just days before Labor Day, a time to commemorate the social and economic achievements of American workers. Mayor de Blasio announced the establishment of OLPS within DCA earlier this year, alongside the appointment of Commissioner Salas. OLPS will serve as the City’s focal point for research, advocacy, and relevant enforcement of related to labor issues in New York City, and will, for the first time, give working families a dedicated voice in City government.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito first proposed the creation of OLPS at her 2014 State of the City address.

“From extending paid sick leave to over one million New Yorkers, to making public transportation more affordable, and to standing up for vulnerable caregivers and carwash workers, this City Council is fully committed to protecting workers’ rights and to making our city a fairer and more just place for all people to work and live,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The Office of Labor Policy and Standards will help educate and empower New Yorkers, and will ensure that the rights of all workers are protected. I look forward to working with Commissioner Salas and Deputy Commissioner Vladeck to strengthen the enforcement of our labor laws.”

“With Deputy Commissioner Vladeck now at the helm of OLPS and building her team, we are plowing ahead and working towards the Office’s goals of advocating on behalf of working families through policy, research, and community outreach,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “With the addition of OLPS to DCA’s portfolio of work, we can truly and holistically foster thriving communities by encouraging a fair and equitable marketplace for consumers.”

“I am honored by the confidence that Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Salas have shown in me, and I intend to do everything I can to ensure this new office fulfills its goals to assist in the protection and empowerment of working people in New York City,” said Deputy Commissioner Liz Vladeck. “The creation of this office and the decision to house it in DCA show the commitment of the Mayor, the City Council, and the Commissioner to fighting inequality in our city. I am thrilled to become part of the team dedicated to realizing that mandate.”

Deputy Commissioner Vladeck, a third-generation New Yorker, has worked within the New York City labor movement for many years as both in-house and outside counsel for a number of unions. She got her start as a union organizer on local and national organizing and internal union campaigns, and served for a number of years on the Board and Executive Committee of Jobs with Justice – a coalition of labor and community groups. She also worked in Russia for several years with the nascent independent labor movement there, leading both a national organizing project and local campaigns, as well as advising on legal work in the field of labor and employment. She earned her law degree at Columbia Law School and holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College.

The new office will ensure New York City continues to be at the forefront of new issues impacting workers in today’s economy, particularly in our city’s unique and diverse economy. OLPS will be a leader in recommending new policies and programs that protect New York City workers and ensure rules, regulations, and laws designed to improve working conditions are enforced properly, and that workers and businesses know and understand those laws. Through extensive outreach to workers and employers; research and investigation; and ultimate pursuit of violators, the office will continue the enforcement of local labor laws.

The Office of Labor Policy and Standards will also work closely with the Council to expand upon the City’s labor policy and enforcement work, and with other state and federal agencies to ensure workers are aware of their rights at every level of government.

By engaging individual workers, communities, advocates, employers, and government partners to identify key labor issues facing working families in New York City, OLPS will seek to develop policy recommendations and also conduct enforcement of key municipal labor laws. OLPS will continue DCA’s enforcement of, and education about the City’s Paid Sick Leave and Commuter Benefits laws, which DCA has successful implemented over the past two years. DCA continues to lead the nation on advocacy around the importance of paid sick leave and to serve as a model for other jurisdictions looking to enact and implement sick leave and commuter benefits laws.

Under the leadership of Paid Sick Leave Executive Director Nicolas Smithberg, the agency has now closed more than 800 paid sick leave cases, securing more than $3.9 million in paid sick leave fines and restitution for more than 14,500 employees. DCA’s work has been particularly impactful for those in low-wage professions, such as security guards, home health aides, restaurant workers, and retail workers, who are now receiving sick leave as required by the law. DCA’s extensive outreach and education campaigns also informed millions of New Yorkers about the laws and helped both employers and employees to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law.

Also joining Deputy Commissioner Vladeck in the Office of Labor Policy and Standards is Sarah Leberstein, who will focus on policy and research, particularly with respect to those working in the paid care industry. Leberstein previously worked at the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group for low-wage workers and the unemployed. Her work there focused on improving and enforcing labor standards, with particular emphasis on home care and domestic workers. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Fordham Law School, and was the recipient of an Equal Justice Works fellowship. She also organized healthcare and building service workers with the Service Employees International Union.

“City government needs to lead when it comes to fairness and justice in the workplace,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, the author of New York City’s first Paid Sick Leave law. “I congratulate Deputy Commissioner Vladeck and look forward to working with her to advance New Yorkers’ rights at work.”

“I would like to congratulate Deputy Commissioner Liz Vladeck on her appointment to head DCA’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards and look forward to working with her to ensure that all New Yorkers benefit from equitable labor laws and policies,” said Council Member Rafael L. Espinal, Chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee. “Although we have made significant progress over the past several years with the implementation of Paid Sick Leave and Commuter Benefits laws, a lot more needs to be done so we cannot stop there. I am sure that OLPS, under the leadership of Commissioner Salas and Deputy Commissioner Vladeck, will play a vital role in protecting our city’s workers and developing additional creative strategies to empower our city’s workforce.”

“Deputy Commissioner Vladeck is a supreme choice for OLPS,” said Council Member Vincent J. Gentile. “She is a proven leader and an esteemed labor lawyer who has excelled at every stage regarding the New York City labor movement. A plethora of experience, from grassroots union advocacy to union counsel, to her current position as Deputy Commissioner, the OLPS has a bright future with her and Commissioner Salas at the helm.”

“I was proud to co-sponsor the legislation creating the new Office of Labor Policy and Standards,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “This new office will enforce the City’s paid sick leave and transit benefits laws, as well as create and promote programs on worker education and safety. I pledge to work with new Deputy Commissioner Liz Vladeck as she dedicates herself to protect and safeguard the rights of NYC workers while also assisting their employers in complying with the law.”

“As the lead sponsor of legislation in the City Council to expand Paid Sick Leave, I am incredibly grateful for Mayor de Blasio’s continuing efforts to ensure fairness for working families,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “This appointment, along with the empowerment of the new Office of Labor Policy and Standards, is further proof of this commitment‎ to our city’s workforce. I thank the Mayor, Speaker Mark-Viverito and Commissioner Salas for their action to ensure that workers and employers understand and follow the rules established by this historic Paid Sick Leave legislation.”

“Deputy Commissioner Vladeck’s appointment bodes well for the establishment of a robust Office of Labor Policy and Standards that can truly raise the floor for workers in New York City,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “We look forward to working with Deputy Commissioner Vladeck and Commissioner Salas to ensure NYC’s workers are empowered and protected.”

“The appointment of Deputy Commissioner Vladeck to lead OLPS under Commissioner Salas strengthens our City’s commitment to ensuring labor laws are enforced and working for consumers and the workforce. With its mission, scope, and capabilities, OLPS has the potential to be a model for other cities,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.
  
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo Scissura said, “The working people of New York City deserved a dedicated advocate and resource center within the government, and Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito delivered with the creation of OLPS. Together, Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas and OLPS Deputy Commissioner Liz Vladeck will now provide working families with the services they need, while also helping to develop our labor policies and laws of the future. Congratulations to Deputy Commissioner Vladeck, and I look forward to working with her to make New York City the greatest place to live, work and own a business.”

“The problems of exploitation and abuse in our city’s workplaces will not be easily solved – it will require the best minds and a truly committed team within City government, and the ability to leverage partnerships with community based and labor organizations, as well as workers themselves,” said Deborah Axt, co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that Mayor de Blasio intends to do what it will take. Ms. Vladeck adds a large dose of the necessary brain power and commitment to the team being assembled under DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas, already nationally renowned for her leadership in workers’ rights enforcement.”

“We are thrilled at the announcement of Liz Vladeck’s appointment to head the new Office of Labor Policy and Standards and the addition of Sarah Leberstein to the team. Both women bring incredible track records fighting to enforce the rights of low-wage workers – and thinking creatively about how to craft policy to meet the City’s goal of advancing those workers' rights. They are invaluable additions to Commissioner Salas as she builds OLPS. We look forward to supporting their work in the coming months,” said Amy Carroll, Chief of Staff for the Center for Popular Democracy.

“We applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio and DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas on this important step forward for the new Office of Labor Policy and Standards; the strength of this office will play a powerful role in protecting the rights of the millions of immigrant New Yorkers who are disproportionately targeted by unscrupulous employers and employment agencies,” said Manuel Castro, Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment. “We look forward to working with Deputy Commisioner Liz Vladeck and her team to ensure enforcement and to develop further protections for our community.”

“Fair and equitable labor protections for our most vulnerable workers in New York City are long overdue,” said Angela Fernandez, Esq, Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “We congratulate Speaker Mark-Viverito and Mayor de Blasio for their vision in creating OLPS. Implementation and enforcement will be key, and we are confident that under the leadership of Commissioner Salas and Deputy Commissioner Vladeck, working families throughout the city will receive the protection and freedom from abuse and exploitation that plagues certain sectors of our economy.”

“Mayor de Blasio is showing his strong commitment to working New Yorkers with this new office and new Deputy Commissioner who will focus on protecting their rights,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “Working with DCA Commission Lorelai Salas, a workers’ rights champion in her own right, Liz Vladeck will guide the Office of Labor and Policy Standards to play an important role in the lives of working New Yorkers. She has a long history of supporting workers in their fights to organize and win respect on the job and we know she will put her commitment to workers to great use in this new position.”

“The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies congratulates Liz Vladeck on her appointment to lead the Office of Labor and Policy Standards as it embarks on its mission to protect and advocate for New York’s working families," said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the FPWA. “Deputy Commissioner Vladeck’s impressive legal background and proven commitment to workers, families, and the communities they call home make her an excellent choice to partner with Commissioner Salas to ensure that the OLPS fulfills its broad and important mandate. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Salas for their work to educate, empower, and advocate for working New Yorkers and I look forward to collaborating with DCA to further those goals.” 

“A Better Balance is thrilled with the appointments Mayor de Blasio has made to the Department of Consumer Affairs” said Sherry Leiwant, co-President of A Better Balance. “Strong labor advocates like Liz Vladeck working under the leadership of Commissioner Salas will ensure that the new Office of Labor Policy and Standards will improve working conditions for all New York City workers, and be a model for the nation. We look forward to working with Deputy Commissioner Vladeck and OLPS to enforce workers’ rights across the city.”

Luna Ranjit, Executive Director of Adhikaar, said “Adhikaar has been working closely with DCA and other government agencies to ensure enforcement of labor laws, particularly for domestic workers and nail salon workers. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Deputy Commissioner Vladeck and OLPS to further build workers’ power and create innovative models of enforcement.”
   
“With the appointment of Liz Vladeck and Sarah Leberstein, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Salas have assembled a powerhouse team of leading advocates to promote good jobs for New York’s working families,” said Catherine Ruckelshaus, General Counsel and Program Director for the National Employment Law Project.

About the Department of Consumer Affairs
The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) licenses, inspects, and educates businesses, assists and informs consumers, mediates complaints, and offers free financial counseling and safe banking products. DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law, the Paid Sick Leave Law and other related business laws throughout New York City and licenses nearly 80,000 businesses in 55 different industries. For more information, call 311 or visit DCA online at nyc.gov/consumers or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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