Key steps the Adams administration should take to protect unemployed New Yorkers looking for work
New Yorkers are asking for help (Photo: Gerardo Romo / City Council)
When mayor-elect Eric Adams takes the oath in January, he will have to do more than just manage the city’s economic recovery. He will have to ensure that the more than 8% of unemployed New Yorkers can participate. This means making sure that New Yorkers looking for work don’t have to take on debt they can’t afford just to apply for it.
Unfortunately, there are early signs that predatory private actors are already placing many unemployed New Yorkers in this exact position.
For-profit colleges and trade schools have seen an increase in enrollment across the country – an embarrassing trend given that many of these institutions often overburden their students with debt and do relatively little to improve their employment prospects in return. . These institutions are a particular threat here in New York City, as they often target the black and Latino working-class neighborhoods of the Bronx and Brooklyn. These neighborhoods not only have the highest attendance rates at for-profit institutions. They also have the highest student rates with loans in collection.
Another threat to New Yorkers trying to enter or re-enter the workforce comes from private employment agencies. A 2016 study by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Center for an Urban Future found that job seekers sometimes paid private employment agencies in New York City up to a month’s salary for a placement. Other agencies simply charge a fee and then refer job seekers to a job site where no employer is found. The same 2016 study found that these programs are particularly common in immigrant communities such as Jackson Heights and Washington Heights.
The combination of for-profit universities and profiteering employment agencies is a dangerous double blow to working-class families in New York City. Job seekers take on more debt when they try to retrain, then are forced to sacrifice a salary they cannot save just to apply for a job they do not yet have.
Mayor-elect Adams can prevent these predatory practices from dealing a fatal blow when he takes office in January. An important first step will be the appointment of an energetic commissioner for the (awkwardly named) Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP). This department, whose powers were extended under Blasio’s administration, has extensive power to protect workers and consumers from “deceptive or unreasonable business practices”.
These five words – and the associated legal provisions – allow DCWP to spearhead any fight against profiteers who prey on vulnerable residents of New York City. The next commissioner of this ministry should commit to using this power to the maximum.
First, the commissioner should re-energize the department’s long-standing struggle against for-profit exploiting colleges and trade schools. One of Blasio’s longtime DCWP commissioners, Lorelei Salas, has fought a legal battle against these types of for-profit educational institutions, exposing both the extent of the problem and, if so, , taking these establishments to court. In addition to continuing this fight, the next DCWP commissioner is expected to launch a task force to identify and immediately shut down all private colleges that have taken advantage of New Yorkers in the wake of the pandemic.
Second, the ministry must take serious action to put an end to predatory private employment agencies. The next DCWP commissioner should not only commit to targeting employment agencies that take money from job seekers and provide little in return. He or she should also partner with other municipal agencies to promote Workforce1, which are public employment agencies, ensuring that these centers are active in the same communities where predatory private employment agencies tend. to operate. Likewise, the next commissioner is expected to partner with unions to create an effective workforce training pipeline that connects job seekers to quality internships.
These simple measures are not only an economic imperative, but a moral one. Many of the communities targeted by for-profit colleges and private employment agencies are the same communities that suffered the most during the pandemic: black, Latino and immigrant working-class neighborhoods. The death toll was not only the highest in these neighborhoods, but the economic devastation was particularly severe.
These communities deserve help, and that’s exactly what Mayor-elect Adams ran on. When selecting his Commissioner for the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, Mayor-elect Adams is expected to make sure they get one.
Adam Hofman Bradlow previously worked on consumer protection issues in the United States Senate and graduated in 2018 from Yale Law School. He is a project manager at Dalberg Advisors. On Twitter @abradlow.