Roundtable exposes extent of wage theft

By Steve Share
April 27, 2017

One worker after another, they described how employers failed to pay them for work they performed. They included a truck driver, a home health care worker, a retail cleaner and a school worker. All spoke at a roundtable Wednesday hosted by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service and moderated by Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith.

The event highlighted the problem of wage theft in Minnesota and pointed to legislation to improve enforcement when wage theft occurs.

“It is so completely wrong,” Smith said. “Wage theft is stealing.”

In some industries, such as construction, employers intentionally and routinely steal wages from workers, said Burt Johnson, attorney for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. It is “a business model” that the union refers to as “payroll fraud.”

Lt. Gov. Smith said her understanding of wage theft has grown in recent years.

“I have to admit I thought it was something that was extremely rare and almost done by accident,” she said. “I have learned a lot since then,” noting “There are so many ways employers can steal from their employees, whether it’s five minutes at a time or two weeks at a time.”

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