Wage Theft Costing Low-Income Workers Billions

“Nearly $1 billion was recovered in 2012 by lawyers or regulatory agencies acting on behalf of workers who were paid below minimum wage, not paid for overtime or other wage and hour violations, according to a first-time analysis conducted by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. And the problem is growing, EPI analysts say.


Even with these efforts by lawmakers and labor groups, “I think wage theft is increasing,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president at EPI and one of the authors of the new study. “There really is not much state local or federal enforcement going on, particularly in the low-wage industries where you’re not going to get attorneys to bring those cases.”

“The money recovered is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project. The EPI report says if the 2009 study were extrapolated to the entire country’s low-wage labor market, wage theft could cost workers more than $50 billion every year.

Read more from NBC News here

America Has More Low-Paying Jobs Than Any Other Developed Country

“The U.S. has more low-paying jobs than any other country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an economic group of 34 developed countries, according to a research note released by Morgan Stanley on Monday. The OECD defines “low-paying” as jobs that earn less than two-thirds of a country’s median income. On average, around 16 percent of jobs in OECD countries are considered low-paying. In the U.S., over 25 percent of all jobs qualify as such.”

Source: OECD Employment Outlook 2013, Morgan Stanley Reports

“The ranking reflects America’s problem with income equality. Even though the U.S. has one of the highest household median incomes in the world (about $44,000 compared to roughly $10,000 worldwide), there’s a wide gulf between those making much more than the median income and those making much less. According to the Morgan Stanley economists, income inequality is stifling U.S. economic growth because low-income Americans aren’t able to spend enough to boost the greater economy.” Read more here or here.

The Fortune 500 can easily afford to give low-wage workers a healthy raise

If you went to your child’s nursery school and saw one toddler with 300 toys while most—including your own—only had one or two to play with, what would you think?

hoarding toys (image credit: nottheitgirls.com)

hoarding toys (image credit: nottheitgirls.com)

“This ugly picture is an apt metaphor for the pay practices at many of the largest U.S. companies today. While low-wage earners suffer most, there’s growing evidence that low pay harms almost everyone, hurts corporate profits over the long term, and stifles economic growth. But could U.S. companies afford to pay more – could they invest dollars in workers today — in order to reap longer term gains?

“A look at Fortune 500 data suggests that the largest U.S. corporations could improve the economy, their bottom lines, and the lot of millions of workers by increasing the wages they pay their employees… Nearly 85% of Fortune 500 companies with positive income could have paid every single worker $10,400 more and still finished 2013 in the black.”

Read more from the Fortune Magazine here



N.J. woman with three jobs eulogized as face of low-wage worker

“A New Jersey woman died earlier this week trying to catch a few hours of sleep between jobs, a chilling reminder of the struggle low-wage workers, particularly women, face making ends meet. Fernandes worked at multiple Dunkin’ Donuts locations. Dunkin’ Donuts confirmed that the outlets where she worked were owned by different franchisees and that the different owners didn’t know she was working at multiple restaurants. Fernandes worked as little as 10 hours a week at one franchise and as many as 40 hours a week at another.” With a minimum wage of $8.25/hour in New Jersey, full time work at 40 hours a week would gross an employee $330. 

“It is a very sad story and really tragic, and it shines a light on what is a real problem, particularly for low-wage workers, today,” said Elizabeth Watson, senior counsel and director of workplace justice for women at the National Women’s Law Center.


“Fernandes, 32, died while napping in a parking lot in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on Aug. 25. She was apparently overcome by fumes from a gas can she kept in her car to be sure she wouldn’t run out of fuel on her way to her part-time shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts stores in three different New Jersey towns.”

Read more about this story and why American women make up a large percentage of the U.S. low-wage and part-time workforce here or here

Updates to OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rule

The federal government is tightening rules on the reporting of workplace deaths and severe injuries. Establishments located in States under the Federal Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) jurisdiction must begin to comply with the new requirements on January 1, 2015, reporting any fatalities within eight hours of the accident or incident. Also, all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours to OSHA.

Previously, OSHA’s regulations required such reports to be filed only if three or more workers were killed or hospitalized while on the job. The agency said no company will be exempt, no matter how small.

“We can and must do more to keep America’s workers safe and healthy,” Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. “Workplace injuries and fatalities are absolutely preventable, and these new requirements will help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing them.”

Read the full updates here.

Being a True New Orleanian

Workplace Justice Project volunteer Karla Rosas writes an Op Ed for The Maroon about what it means to live in a community and truly be a part of it: “When we claim a place as our home, we have to be prepared to actively love and nurture it. When we claim something as part of who we are, we have to acknowledge that any flaws in it are a reflection of our shortcomings as well.” Read the full piece here


Happy Hardworking Labor Day.

We hope you are enjoying a day off on this day honoring the workers of the United States. Unfortunately, many of us are not enjoying today as a holiday, and most of us are working harder than ever. Here are some statistics, so that when you are feeling overworked, you can at least take comfort that you are not alone.

NLRB ruling in favor of McDonald’s Workers

“On July 29, 2014 the NLRB ruled that McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food corporation, which in 2012 earned $27.5 billion and banked $5.5 billion in profits, can be held jointly responsible for unfair labor practices and wage violations made by its franchise operators.”

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald’s restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

McDonald’s fast food workers first dared to strike in November 2012, asking for higher wages. “But when the stores retaliated by firing workers, cutting their hours, arranging inconvenient schedules or otherwise punishing them, the workers took their cases to the NLRB.” The NLRB has ruled that McDonald’s the company, not the franchises which account for 90 percent of its 14,000 stores in the U.S., is responsible as the parent corporation and as a joint employer.

“Unions immediately applauded the ruling, seeing an opening to help them organize workers at all fast food and retail franchises and in many job categories — like janitors, warehouse truck drivers, airport workers and those at dry cleaners and car dealerships — that rely on subcontractors and temp agencies. The ruling is a boon to the Service Employees union, which has worked tirelessly for several years to organize the 4 million fast food workers in this country.”

Read more of this story by Workers World here

Retail Workers Bill of Rights

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar introduced the first half of a “Retail Workers Bill of Rights,” which would require formula retail companies—which include stores such as Target, Lowe’s, The Gap, McDonald’s and Starbucks—to offer more hours of work to current employees before hiring additional workers. Other issues addressed will include promoting full-time work and access to hours, discouraging abusive on-call scheduling practices, encouraging fair, predictable schedules, and encouraging worker retention and job security, even when companies are bought or sold (Retail Workers Rights).

“The lack of sufficient hours doesn’t just force individuals to struggle to pay their bills; the unpredictability of work schedules makes it difficult to plan the rest of one’s life. For workers with family caretaking responsibilities or health concerns, this can make scheduling childcare or medical appointments almost impossible. It also creates difficulties for people trying to work more than one job or attend classes,” reports Julia Wong


“With its goals of promoting steady working conditions, the proposed ordinance is similar to the Schedules That Work Act introduced to Congress by Representatives George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Like the ordinance in San Francisco, the bill would require guaranteed pay for cancelled, shortened, or on-call shifts for employees; it would also compensate them for “split shifts.” The act is broader in scope than San Francisco’s: Beyond “formula retail” stores, its aforementioned protections would extend to everyone in the retail, janitorial, and food service sectors.”