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.

$15

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

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.

working-poor

“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

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

How feel-good companies are navigating the minimum-wage fray

“Companies that wish to project a progressive image for their brands for being environmentally friendly or supporting organic farming represent an equally important social barometer for pay equity,” says Michael Santoro, professor of business ethics at Rutgers University.

Robert Caplin | Bloomberg | Getty Images Workers fill orders inside a Starbucks in New York, U.S.

Robert Caplin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers fill orders inside a Starbucks in New York, U.S.

 

“Can brands that cater to conscious consumerism extend their value proposition to help workers earn a living wage?” asks Santoro, who wrote about the widening disconnect between Main Street and Wall Street in his book, “Wall Street Values.” He added, “The days of grooving to your iPhone and not caring that a worker manufactured that phone in a substandard factory are over.”

Read more here

More than 100 arrested: Protesters seeking higher pay for McDonald’s workers swarm fast-food chain’s corporate office near Chicago

“Police on Wednesday arrested more than 100 demonstrators seeking better pay for McDonald’s workers as protesters swarmed the fast-food chain’s corporate campus near Chicago to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour and the right to unionize. The latest protest against McDonald’s Corp, the world’s biggest restaurant operator by revenue, came a day ahead of a shareholder vote on executive pay, including that of Chief Executive Don Thompson, who earned total compensation of $9.5 million in 2013.

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets near the McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill on Wednesday (BEV HORNE/AP)

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets near the McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill on Wednesday (BEV HORNE/AP)

“Frequent rallies by low-wage restaurant and retailer workers have helped fuel a national debate on pay inequality at a time when many middle- to low-income Americans are having trouble making ends meet.”

Read more here

Philadelphia joins roster of cities tackling low wages

“Last week, Mayor Nutter signed an executive order requiring that employees of subcontractors on city contracts must be paid at least the city’s so-called living wage of $10.88 an hour, a floor that will rise to $12 in January. Today, city voters are widely expected to put an exclamation point on Nutter’s move by approving a ballot measure – Question No. 1 – that would establish the living wage for city subcontractors as city law, making it difficult for one of Nutter’s successors in City Hall to easily reverse the pay gains.

Nikishia Watson, of West Philadelphia, waits for her train home after a shift cleaning terminals at Philadelphia International Airport. She earns $8.50 an hour to support herself and her daughter while also taking classes to finish a bachelor's degree. (Matthew Hall / Philly.com Staff Photographer)

Nikishia Watson, of West Philadelphia, waits for her train home after a shift cleaning terminals at Philadelphia International Airport. She earns $8.50 an hour to support herself and her daughter while also taking classes to finish a bachelor’s degree. (Matthew Hall / Philly.com Staff Photographer)

“A “yes” vote would put Philadelphia in the mix of major American cities that are looking for creative ways to boost living standards for low-wage workers, at a time when the U.S. Congress and many statehouses – including GOP-controlled Harrisburg – are balking at a higher minimum wage for all workers. Opponents claim that raising wages would increase unemployment as business owners look to protect their bottom line.”

Read more here

LA Senate panel kills proposed minimum wage hike

“What was likely the last gasp came in a meeting of the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations, where state Sen. Ben Nevers asked his colleagues to advance legislation setting minimum wage at $9.50 an hour. Committee members listened, asked a few questions, killed Senate Bill 123 and adjourned for the weekend.

“On the other side of the State Capitol, the House Labor Committee already held the funerals for a slate of bills that sought to tinker with minimum wage. One of the dead proposals would have set a minimum wage of $8.25 beginning on July 1, 2015, and then gradually increased it. Another would have created a $10.10 minimum wage.

“Still in circulation is Senate Bill 46, which would establish a minimum wage of $10 an hour, even higher than Nevers’ proposal. State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, could have run with the bill Thursday but didn’t. “Maybe some of my colleagues may have a change of heart this weekend,” she said.”

Louisiana remains one of a handful of states in the U.S. without an established minimum wage. Read more of the story here.

After Push by Obama, Minimum-Wage Action Is Moving to the States

 

““Nobody who works full time should be raising a family in poverty,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday as he campaigned for the minimum-wage increase in Michigan, where a coalition of labor and other groups is trying to collect signatures to force action by the Legislature or put the issue to voters in the fall.

“Mr. Obama praised the efforts of the states to raise their own wages. California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island increased their minimum wages in 2013, while Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia did the same this year, researchers at the National Conference of State Legislatures said. In addition to the efforts in Michigan, advocates in Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and South Dakota are all trying to push the issue with voters this fall, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.”

There is also an ongoing effort in Louisiana to enact a minimum wage. Currently Louisiana has no minimum wage.

Read the full NY Times article here.