Wage theft is a widespread issue in America. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that not many people are talking about.
What is wage theft? In the simplest terms – It’s what happens when workers don’t receive the pay to which they are entitled. Pretty simple, right? Well, if we go a little deeper we see there are several types of wage theft: not giving a worker their last paycheck after the worker leaves a job, not paying for all the hours worked, not paying appropriate overtime, and paying less than minimum wage.
Who’s at risk for wage theft? Everyone is, but it most frequently affects low wage workers – those workers who are already struggling to pay their bills and who can least afford the lost pay. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) found in a recent study that 17-18 percent of U.S. born workers were victims of wage theft, but that number jumps to a staggering 29-47 percent when talking about undocumented workers. And what does this mean for these families? Homes are lost, bills can’t be paid, children can’t be fed, and more and more people end up requiring federal assistance.
John, a New Mexico Working America member, was a truck driver for 30 years and battled wage theft constantly. “Because of our shaky economy, some employers will take advantage in any way possible, including stealing from their own employees. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
In 2009, New Mexico passed a bill (HB 489) intended to protect workers from wage theft. In addition to preventing retaliation towards employees who file wage theft claims, it extends the statute of limitations for wage theft claims and penalizes bad employers by making them pay triple what they owe, if violations are found. New Mexico’s Workforce Solutions is responsible for investigating claims and involving prosecutors to take appropriate actions against unscrupulous employers.
So what’s the problem? We’ve found that although the law is a good one, people still don’t know what their rights are or are afraid of retaliation, so they don’t pursue compensation. And even still, some of those who attempt to file claims with the Department of Labor are turned away, being told that not all claims will be investigated.
We must also be vigilant about ensuring that wages are paid fairly and education about our rights is the first step.
Your employer must pay you the state or federal minimum wage.
If you are a non-exempt employee working over 40 hours in a seven day work week, you are entitled to overtime pay.
If you leave a job, you are entitled to a final paycheck.
For more information, call our office at (505) 255-2127 or email us at [email protected]
If you’re a Pennsylvanian, there are many things I know about you, even though we may have never met. You’re a neighborhood, come-join-me-on-my-porch, kind of person. You make sure that Santa Claus never skips a house on your block. You will do anything it takes to give a dying man another day of life. You are the greatness of Pennsylvania.
I worked at St. Francis Hospital from 1964 until the hospital closed in 2002. For most of those years I worked in the Psychiatry ward as a psychiatric aide. We loved caring for the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. I have to admit, caring for the poor was the best part of my job. It was at that hospital that I came to understand the meaning of healthcare. The meaning was healing: a healing of body, mind and spirit. A healing without a price tag attached.
In December of 2007, I was overwhelmed with despair when I found out that my brother Billy, a man with a gentle soul and a loving heart – a heart that didn’t always beat so good – was being denied life-saving cardiac care because he was first denied his right to buy a private health insurance policy. I wondered: When was it that healing was replaced with profit?
Billy applied for Medicaid, but as a pizza delivery driver he made too much money to qualify for that program. Billy died on March 7th, 2009. He was 57 years old. Folks on the street where he died did whatever they could do to give him back another day of life. A teenager folded his hoodie sweatshirt and placed it under Billy’s head in a gesture of comfort.
When it’s time for State Budget talks, I worry: Will this be the year we see deep cuts to Medicaid? This program is a lifeline for the poor and the working poor; for the mentally ill and children who suffer with Autism; for diabetics and their treatment; for a woman with MS; for a man who needs cardiac care; and for an elderly neighbor who needs nursing home care. They all need care, but without money, they may find themselves with no other option than to agree to hospice care.
I think Governor Tom Corbett and our legislators believe that if they cut the life line “for those folks” none of us will care. Maybe they expect that we, like them, will turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering and death of “those folks.”
But they will be wrong. What makes Pennsylvania the greatest state in the Union is that her citizens have a core belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. We will stand up, we will have our voice heard, and make no mistake about it, we will fight if our beliefs are put in jeopardy or challenged. We will win that fight because we are neighborhood, come-join-me-on-my-porch, kind of folks.
The following is a guest post from Julie Parker, a Working America Community Action Team member from Bloomfield, Pennsylvania.
There are only a couple of things that almost everyone agrees on. One of them is we love our kids. Even if you don’t have any children, chances are that there is a child in your life somewhere that you love and want the best for.
I have one son. His name is Alex, he is 4 years old, and he loves Thomas the Tank Engine. Alex talks in what I call “train speak.” He says things like, “My boiler aches” and “I popped a piston,” which makes it hard for me to figure out where he is hurting. We don’t hold hands to cross the street, we “couple up.” And if you want him to slow down, you don’t tell him to stop running, you holler “You’re chuffing too fast.” It’s an interesting world.
Alex is enrolled in the Pittsburgh Public School Early Childhood Intervention Program/Head Start. We are slightly over the income requirements, but he qualified because he was a little behind in fine motor skills and in gross motor skills. He receives occupational therapy and physical therapy services as part of the program. Over the past school year, I have watched Alex progress in his writing skills, coloring, balance, and coordination. He has benefitted tremendously from the program and the interaction with other children. And, really, that is the point of pre-school: Get the kids in, get them used to a routine, catch them up where they may be behind, and prepare them for success for the remainder of their education. It is easy to catch the kids up when they are so young and eager to learn.
We won’t be able to return in the fall if Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to education are passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Since we are over income, we would lose our spot in the Early Childhood Intervention program first. I have been trying to find alternatives for the fall in case we are cut from the program. The pre-school in my Bloomfield neighborhood charges $180 per week. Yes, that’s right, per week. That is about the same cost as most private day-care programs.
Without the public school pre-K program, I will have to tell my son that I can’t give him the best possible start with his education because I can’t afford it.
If we value our children and want the very best for them, why doesn’t our state budget reflect that? That’s why everyone who loves a kid should be moved to action by the Pennsylvania State Budget proposed by Governor Corbett.
The people of Wisconsin may not see eye-to-eye on many recent political issues but one issue that most people can agree on is outsourcing. In a state like ours where manufacturing has been a major part of the economy throughout history, shipping jobs overseas has been a blow to nearly every Wisconsin community.
But here’s what you may not know: Current tax loopholes actually incentivize moving overseas for companies, while doing nothing to support companies that move back to the United States from abroad. Those tax incentives encouraged and rewarded 47 companies in Southeastern Wisconsin alone to move operations overseas – while doing very little for a company like Master Lock as it moved 100 jobs back to Milwaukee.
With such a large manufacturing base and a steady loss of jobs in the state the impact of outsourcing reaches just about everyone. Our organizers hear daily from members who either lost their job to outsourcing or know someone who did. The effects are so enormous that between 1994 and 2011 Wisconsin lost over 81,000 manufacturing jobs. A majority of those workers were certified as having lost jobs due to imports and offshoring.
Members from across the state have voiced their support for the Bring Jobs Home Act, a bill that would eliminate the tax loopholes for companies moving out of the country and reward them for bringing jobs back.
Vivian, a Working America member from Oshkosh, said, “We all want the American Dream: job, family, home and a good life. You cannot have this without a good job.”
As corporate greed increases, the American dream is disappearing. The current generation faces higher unemployment and lower wages even though they are better educated than those before them. This is first generation that will not be better off than their parents.
As Working America member Chris from Brown Deer put it, “Until we eliminate the incentives that corporations have to send high-paying, full-time jobs overseas, we will continue to suffer as a nation.”
Even now, corporate profits continue to soar and wages continue to decline; corporate CEO’s are more concerned about their bank accounts than they are about the people whose livelihoods depend on earning a decent wage. We need to reward companies that do the right thing instead of paying them to move jobs overseas. The Bring Jobs Home Act helps us move away from the “profits before people” mentality to make sure that the people of this country have the ability to buy the goods we are selling.
The thing is, many of these corporations that we pay to ship jobs away were made in America. They began here, found success here and they should be proud to attach “Made in America” to their products.
The news has just come in: the Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010 and will reform our health care system to insure millions more people, has been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Roberts joined Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Kagan and Ginsburg in upholding the law, which Working America members spent many months telling Congress to pass.
There are a few wrinkles in the decision, the effects of which remain to be seen. In particular, the provision which expanded Medicaid coverage to families near the poverty line has been narrowed somewhat. We will look closely at the decisions and keep you updated on the law and how it’s being implemented.
We’re relieved and gratified that the health care bill our members fought so hard to pass will be preserved and millions of Americans will receive health care coverage. Let us know what you think about the decision and what your hopes and concerns are about the future of health care.
Lost in the barrage of news coverage about the Arizona law Monday was the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow Montana or any other state to impose limits on independent election spending because of the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. Montana had a 100-year law on the books that restricted corporate spending on elections.
A New York Times editorial addressed concerns over the Supreme Court’s decision:
If the justices were at all concerned about these developments, they could have used the Montana case to revisit their decision and rein in its disastrous effects. The only conclusion is that they are quite content with the way things worked out.
The court’s five conservative justices struck down a Montana law that prohibited corporate spending in elections—a law passed in 1912 not out of some theoretical concern about money corrupting elections but to put an end to actual influence-buying by copper barons.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who authored the dissenting opinion, wrote that it was pointless to hear arguments on the Montana law after Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission since the court’s conservative majority was going to uphold Citizens United. He also noted that this decision indicates trouble for campaign finance reform:
Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.
The Supreme Court’s decision this week to allow unlimited corporate spending to influence Montana elections is incomprehensible. The fact that corporations are allowed to spend this money in secret, with no reporting or transparency, flies in the face of everything we know to be honest and just…