DA Candidate Diana Florence Rolls Out Expansive Vision for Labor Crimes Bureau
Backed by 9 unions already, Laborers Local 79 - leading voice against sexual harassment in trades- joins Florence's coalition + Freelancers Union supports Florence's Labor Crimes Bureau initiative
NEW YORK, NY (10/08/2020) (readMedia)-- Together with labor leaders, Diana Florence rolled out an expansive vision for a first of its kind Labor Crimes Bureau inside the Manhattan District Attorney's office. Florence also picked up the endorsement of her 10th union: the Laborers Local 79. The Mason Tenders' District Council of Greater New York is an umbrella organization of five local unions representing some 17,000 members of the Laborers' International Union of North America. It's one of the most active, progressive and pro-immigrant unions in New York. Local 79 in particular has put an emphasis on sexual harassment, with a member - Tierra Williams - filing a major complaint last year against Trade Off, a non-union laborer contractor that worked on Hudson Yards. Williams spoke at the roll-out about the need to understand sexual harassment as a labor rights issue.
The influential Freelancers Union - representing 56.7 million independent workers across the country - also endorsed the proposal, although the organization has not yet made a formal endorsement in the race.
Read the full proposal at DianaforDA.com
"The Labor Crimes Bureau will set a new floor for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and DAs across the country as we grapple with the ways the coronavirus has reshaped society," said Diana Florence, candidate for Manhattan District Attorney. "Keeping workers safe and making sure they're getting paid is more urgent than ever as we stare down the double threat of the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. It's time to stop overcriminalizing crimes of poverty and start enforcing crimes of power."
Florence's Labor Crimes Bureau will investigate the following:
- wage theft and prevailing wage violations
- health and safety violations
- payroll tax fraud
- unemployment insurance fraud
- union benefit fund fraud
- worker's compensation insurance fraud
- labor trafficking
- sexual misconduct in the workplace when it crosses the line into sexual assault.
Florence has previously published opinion pieces in The New York Daily News, El Diario, and City Limits about using the criminal law to protect essential workers, and prosecuting wage theft as larceny.
Florence launched her campaign in August with six unions: the New York State Ironworkers, Bricklayers Local 1, Terrazzo Workers Local 7, Heat & Frost Insulators Local 12, Ironworkers Local 361, Northeast District Council of Plasterers' & Cement Masons' Local 262 and 780.
She's picked up 4 more since, including the Teamsters Joint Council 16, the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, New York City Vicinity District Council of Carpenters, and Laborers Local 79 as of today.
She is so far the only candidate with any union support in a race which has not historically engaged the labor rights community.
"The unprecedented number of unions rallying in support of Diana Florence in her campaign for Manhattan District Attorney is a true testament to her fighting spirit on behalf of working New Yorkers. During my more than twenty-year tenure as a New York City labor leader, I've worked with elected officials, candidates, and advocates, and Diana's work ethic and fierce determination are among the best. There's no doubt that working people will have a powerful advocate in Diana Florence as Manhattan's next District Attorney," said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
"The construction business, particularly nonunion construction, is like an 'old boys club' and this Labor Bureau will create a legal way to hold these abusive 'boys' accountable for their actions," said Construction and General Building Laborers' Local 79 member Tierra Williams. "Sexual harassment of the very, very few women even hired to work on nonunion projects is a daily occurrence. Management is usually well-aware of the behavior but chooses to turn a blind-eye towards the behavior, seemingly treating the harassment as simply how things are done. Diana will stand up to contractors, developers, and other big bosses, not just celebrities and media moguls. This is one of the major reasons Local 79 is in support of Diana as she runs for District Attorney of Manhattan."
The Freelancers Union added their support for Florence's Labor Bureau initiative, calling other District Attorney candidates to follow her lead.
"Wage theft exists in all industries and affects all workers, but has an even greater impact on marginalized workers with fewer protections. Wage theft is illegal- it cheats our local economy and more importantly cheats working people out of their livelihoods. It is encouraging to see a proposal for the DA's office to take their labor enforcement responsibilities seriously and utilize a proactive approach in going after unscrupulous employers. We hope this is something all candidates and current DA's will consider," said Lloyd Lesperance, Chief of Staff at the Freelancers Union.
"Diana Florence is the only District Attorney candidate that fully understands the construction industry in New York," said Robert Bonanza, Business Manager of the Mason Tenders' District Council of Greater New York and Long Island. "On the union side, conditions are decidedly better, but on the non-union side, the practices of many contractors and developers are terrible. More annual fatalities than any other industry, wage theft in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, Workers' Compensation, Unemployment Insurance and tax fraud, sexual harassment of female construction workers and the use of body shops to insulate the bad actors are standard operating procedure in the nonunion sector. We fully believe that Diana Florence is the candidate who will be most effective in combating these crimes."
Diana Florence began her career as a prosecutor 25 years ago in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, focusing on domestic violence cases, then complex frauds and corruption in the Special Prosecutions Bureau and Labor Racketeering Unit, and later becoming the head of the first of its kind Construction Fraud Task Force. She won landmark convictions against companies and individuals for defrauding 9/11 charities, corruption, domestic violence, wage theft, and deadly work conditions. She has taught trial advocacy for over two decades to lawyers in the DA's Office and has lectured investigators and lawyers from around the world on topics ranging from inter-agency cooperation to prosecuting fraud, racketeering and workplace homicide.
As an ADA, Diana held powerful interests accountable by prosecuting developers and corrupt corporations for cheating workers and taxpayers. In an historic case against Harco Construction, she ultimately secured justice for the family of a 22 year-old construction worker, Carlos Moncayo, who was buried alive at work. Using the existing criminal law, Diana charged the corporations and site supervisors, who had been repeatedly warned of hazardous conditions, with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for Moncayo's death. As a result, she drafted legislation (A10728) named after Carlos Moncayo, known as "Carlos' Law" that would establish higher fines for corporations for endangering workers' lives.
Diana has made prosecuting wage theft a centerpiece of her career, notably working alongside IronWorkers Local 361 to secure $6 million in stolen wages and back-pay from AGL Industries. Diana subsequently wrote a bill (A06795) with Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) to reclassify wage theft as the more serious crime of larceny. Other jurisdictions- like the Pittsburgh City Council and Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner- subsequently created similar prosecution models for wage theft.
Diana has worked side-by-side with community based groups, unions, workers centers, and government agencies to create an innovative prosecution model heavily rooted in broad based participation. She is also a fluent Spanish speaker.
Diana Florence wants to make a new PACT (Power, Accountability, Community and Trust) with New York that puts people first. PACT prioritizes prosecuting "crimes of power", being accountable and transparent about the decisions of the DA, and working side-by-side with community stakeholders.
As an ADA, Diana created an innovative model of collaborative prosecution known as co-enforcement. Co-enforcement is based on knowledge instead of assumptions. It relies on collaboration with community partners to determine what justice looks like which then drives the priorities of investigation and prosecution. It starts with working alongside advocates, labor unions, tenants, worker centers, elected officials, industry groups, community leaders - the very people who are affected by crimes of power to ascertain the needs and values of the community. Using co-enforcement, the Construction Fraud Task Force Diana led built a trusting relationship with the community it served and together achieved success.
Born in Manhattan, Diana is a long-time resident of Kips Bay where she lives with her husband and two children. Diana graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, receiving a BA in Art History with a concentration in Spanish as well as her law degree.