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Report: Wage Theft Reaches Deep into the Low-Wage Economy

A new report shows how wage theft reaches deep into the low-wage economy.  “The Movement to End Wage Theft” illustrates the problem with the stories of workers employed by a grocery chain, a temp agency, a construction company and other incorporated businesses. These workers’ wages were stolen by their employers who failed to pay the minimum wage or overtime, or refused to abide by work-break and safety rules.  Findings from a 2009 study cited by the study’s author, Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois at Chicago, concluded that 26 percent of low-wage workers in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles were paid less than the legal minimum wage, and 76 percent of workers who worked overtime were not paid the legally required overtime rate.

Here’s one account from the report :  For six years Modesta has worked as a cashier in a retail store in Brooklyn, New York. When she started at the job she was paid $5 an hour. She worked 60 hours, 6 days a week, but received no overtime pay. Last year she was given a “raise” and now earns $6.60 an hour—still well below the state minimum wage. Most of her co-workers are paid even less, but she says her employer has been able to continue this practice because the workers are too scared to complain.  Yet workers are fighting back, Theodore reports, through worker-led efforts based in community groups and as part of worker alliances in cities throughout the country:  Many have entered into national alliances with other like-minded organizations, such as Interfaith Worker Justice, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, National People’s Action, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and Jobs with Justice. They have forged strong working relationships with labor unions, immigrant rights coalitions, faith-based groups, community organizations, policy think tanks and, to a lesser extent, government enforcement agencies. Through these efforts, workers’ rights organizations have extended their reach; scaled up their efforts; and won significant organizing, legal and legislative victories. (click on link to read full story)

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