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.