Wage theft is a huge problem that requires a creative solution, this week in the war on workers

Wage theft is a huge problem that requires a creative solution, this week in the war on workers

If a worker steals from their employer, they can be fired or even face criminal charges. If an employer steals their workers’ wages, they … usually get to keep the money with no penalties. Wage theft is outrageously common, and it’s rarely treated as a serious civil violation, let alone a criminal one, despite taking money from people who desperately need it to get by. Minimum wage violations, for instance, are one common form of wage theft, and wage theft doesn’t hit all workers equally. According to the National Employment Law Project, “Black workers experience wage theft at three times the rate of white workers. Foreign-born workers experience wage theft at twice the rate of their U.S.-born counterparts. And women experience wage theft at a rate of 30 percent, compared to 20 percent for male workers.”

In 2017, an Economic Policy Institute analysis found that minimum wage violations stole $8 billion a year from workers—in just the 10 most populous states. In 2019, forced arbitration agreements denying workers the chance to make their case in court let employers steal $40 million from Maine workers, NELP reports.

NELP has an answer: retaliation funds. Retaliation funds should be set up by a labor enforcement agency, and workers could draw on them if, after they filed a wage theft complaint with the labor enforcement agency, their pay was reduced or they were fired. At that point, they’d get a one-time payment, and “If the enforcement agency eventually finds that the employer unlawfully retaliated, the employer should replenish the fund with a payment equal to three times the amount the worker received.” That would protect workers from retaliation, which would reduce their fears about reporting wage theft to begin with, and it would act as a disincentive to employers tempted to steal from their workers. Is there a blue state that will consider trying this out?

● Horrifying story, and excellent reporting from the Milwaukee Journal SentinelA labor camp, a Super 8 and a long bus ride home: What happened when COVID-19 hit migrant workers at a Wisconsin canning plant.

● After Strike, Workers Resoundingly Reject Contract at Volvo’s Virginia Truck Plant, Jane Slaughter reports.

● Audubon Society refuses to recognize its staff union, but employees say victory is near, Hamilton Nolan writes.

● App-based grocery delivery workers with a union? At Imperfect Foods, it’s a reality. But that’s a tiny number compared with the huge number of app-based delivery workers these days—something that continuing organizing efforts hope to change.

● New York included undocumented immigrants in pandemic aid, and 290,000 workers will benefit.

● Massachusetts teacher and activist Deborah McCarthy is refusing to administer the state’s high-stakes MCAS test. She wrote on Facebook:

These tests punish and harm our students and their communities based on race and class. These tests are about profit. These tests harm our most vulnerable students. These tests create a two-tiered system of educational privilege.

During a pandemic when the  Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Association of Superintendents, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, many  educational experts, leading legislators,  and numerous community leaders, have ALL called for the suspension of the MCAS, those with the POWER but not the expertise,  have decided during a pandemic to test for profit’s sake.

I will never be the educator my students deserve if I allow POWER  to guide my best educational practices. I will never be an educator of worth,  if I am COMPLICIT in educational malpractice. I will never be an educator of moral clarity if I simply soldier on for PROFIT’s  sake.

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It’s the right thing to do and widely supported! 71% of voters in 67 battleground congressional districts favor #JustCause laws, which would require that workers be protected with fair notice & a real reason before being let go—workers need stability! https://t.co/EZzxbzd7ZX pic.twitter.com/G72vc71w4g

— NELP (@NelpNews) May 20, 2021

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