Entire generations of Americans, and their children, are about to benefit from a new law recently passed in New York City. (Actually, when it comes to protecting Gotham workers, NYC is killing it.) This new law makes it illegal for prospective employers, recruiters, companies, and businesses to ask NYC job seekers about their current or previous salaries. This is huge. Here is why:

The Great Recession – caused by unbridled corporate greed and the rapacious nature of our financial institutions – ruined the lives of millions of people, and their families, worldwide. It turns out that an unregulated Wall Street and banks shooting out loans from t-shirt cannons wasn’t sound Keynesian economics. Go figure.

The Legacy of Job Loss

As a result of unemployment, millions of mothers and fathers had to sit at the dinner table and, while quietly assessing if they could afford the food on the table, explain to their confused children why mommy or daddy wasn’t going to work on Monday morning, and why everything was going to be okay. By the way, there isn’t any dessert tonight. And we’re not going to the beach this year. And you are all going to a new school. So good luck making new friends and try not to experiment with drugs to blunt the pain of watching your parents hysterically scream at each other about which is more important, hamburger meat or asthma medicine.

For far too long corporations and companies have used the cynical but technically accurate excuse of “we have an obligation to our shareholders” to screw the American people. Yet, the hardworking people and the culture of America created by its families are responsible for the existence of the environmental conditions that allowed these businesses to exist at all. These enterprises are not succeeding in a vacuum. There is a karma factor at play here.

Burying the Past

These companies are thriving in a field plowed and cultivated by an ambitious and industrious nation of people: the same people these businesses are now screwing by lowballing their salaries because, well, they can. It’s punishing people not because they have a poor work ethic, poor skills sets, or a poor attitude, but because they have become financially poor through no fault of their own. And maybe that is exactly where these corporations want us. They get to keep the money they don’t pay to their employees. Because, math.

However, the Letitia James bill – eponymously named after an NYC public advocate and passed by the New York City Council this spring – has done the American workforce a major solid. Thankfully, the Letitia James bill makes it illegal for NYC employers and recruiters to ask questions regarding a person’s current or previous salary, freeing job seekers from the undeserved and devastating burdens of unemployment or underemployment that continue to haunt countless American mothers, fathers, and a generation of children raised in families traumatized by financial strife.

William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Let’s hope for the sake of our hardworking nation that the Letitia James bill helps puts the past – everywhere in America – where it belongs.


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