The Fight Against Wage Theft

by Chaz Bolte
March 8, 2016

In some instances, simply being a community advocate for local workers’ rights is what it takes to further establish the IUPAT positive force, and a way of life, for local residents.

Wage theft, the illegal practice of not paying workers for all of their work by violating minimum wage laws, not paying overtime, denying them breaks and making them work off the clock, is a major problem in the United States.

According to a study for the National Employment Law Project, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the Center on Urban Economic Development:

  • Fully 26 percent of workers were paid less than the legally required minimum wage in the previous work week.
  • More than a quarter of respondents worked more than 40 hours during the previous week. Of those, 76 percent were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers.
  • Women were significantly more likely than men to experience minimum wage violations, and foreign-born workers were nearly twice as likely as their U.S.-born counterparts to have a minimum wage violation.
  • Foreign-born Latino workers had the highest minimum wage violation rates of any racial/ethnic group. But among U.S.-born workers, there were significant race differences: African-American workers had a violation rate triple that of their white counterparts.
  • Some 86 percent of respondents worked sufficient consecutive hours to be legally entitled to at least one meal break during the previous week. Of these workers, more than two-thirds (69 percent) received no break at all, had their break shortened, were interrupted by their employer, or worked during the break-all of which constitute a violation of meal break law.


(Read More)

(Click here to view PDF of Study)


Wage-theft enforcement needs a shot in the arm

Advocates push for a crackdown, but cite estimates based on a survey done five years ago

November 17, 2015
By Rosa Goldensohn

Despite a law meant to keep employers from underpaying workers, wage fraud is “pervasive” and requires more regulation, a new report argues.

The study cites 11 individual cases that have occurred in New York since the state law in 2010 to supports its assertion that additional reforms are needed.

But in an attempt to show the statewide scope of the problem, the report extrapolates data from a survey of workers by a workers-rights group in 2010, before a state law passed that year to prevent wage theft had any effect.

Roughly 2.1 million New Yorkers lose $3.2 billion to wage theft annually, including more than $1 billion last year from pay that is less than minimum wage, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the Center for Popular Democracy and based on the worker-advocacy group National Employment Law Project’s study five years ago. Just a fraction of the $23 million in underpayments to 12,700 workers in 2013 was returned, the new report said.

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Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers

Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities

A report by Annette Bernhardt, Ruth Milkman, Nik Theodore, Douglas Heckathorn, Mirabai Auer, James DeFilippis, Ana Luz Gonzalez, Victor Narro, Jason Perelshteyn, Diana Polson, and Michael Spiller

At the start of the 21st century, America’s workplace laws are failing to protect our country’s workers. In industries ranging from construction and food manufacturing to restaurants, janitorial services and home health care, workers are enduring minimum wage and overtime violations, hazardous working conditions, discrimination, and retaliation for speaking up or trying to organize. They have little recourse because of their need for work, especially during the recession. Until now, however, advocates and policy makers lacked representative and reliable data on the magnitude of the problem, the workers who are most affected, and the industries that are the biggest culprits.

Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers is the first study of its kind, exposing systematic and routine violations of employment and labor laws in core sectors of the economy. In 2008, we conducted a landmark survey of 4,387 workers in low-wage industries in the three largest U.S. cities-Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. We used an innovative, rigorous methodology that allowed us to reach vulnerable workers who are often missed in standard surveys, such as unauthorized immigrants and those paid in cash. Our goal was to obtain accurate and statistically representative estimates of the prevalence of workplace violations

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(See Full Report Here)

Report: Seattle Needs Community Groups To Help Enforce New $15 Minimum Wage

For Immediate Release: October 22, 2014

Seattle, WA – Seattle made history by becoming first city in the nation to adopt a $15 minimum wage, but it will need to strengthen its labor standards enforcement to ensure that workers get the raise due to them-and community groups should play a key role in that effort, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.

“We don’t have a $15 minimum wage if we don’t enforce a $15 minimum wage,” said Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project and the report’s co-author. “Educating the employer community is one key to compliance, but education isn’t enough. A robust wage enforcement system needs strong partnerships with local community organizations-groups that are trusted by workers who might not be willing to file complaints directly with the city.”

(Read Full Press Release Here)

(PDF of Report)

Worker advocacy groups say nearly 70 percent of port truckers misclassified as contractors

Nearly 50,000 of the 75,000 port truckers in the U.S. are misclassified as independent contractors, according to a recent report, which says the misclassification costs federal and state governments significant tax losses.

The Feb. 19 report was sponsored by the National Employment Law Project, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center – all three worker advocacy groups.

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Prevailing wage is a middle class booster: Opinion

New Jersey is poised to enact meaningful economic development legislation that could bring about a surge in the growth of middle-class jobs, strengthening communities throughout the state. The Senate Budget Committee and sponsors of the Assembly’s bill must be congratulated for adding to the Economic Opportunity Act crucial provisions that create family-sustaining jobs, which both the Senate and Assembly have overwhelmingly approved. The prevailing wage provisions mean that jobs created or saved will provide dignity and economic security – real economic opportunity for New Jersey’s working families.