Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid - And What We Can Do About It

PRNewswire: nother Case Against Port Trucking Firm Underscores Widespread Industry Abuse, Disregard of Labor Laws, Teamsters Charge

The Teamsters Union praised the courage of the Southern California port drivers who today filed a class-action suit against their employer, Sun Pacific Trucking, Inc., and Pacific Green Trucking, Inc., that alleges they were denied minimum wage, meal and rest periods, among other violations rampant in the deregulated industry. According to the driver’s attorneys Sun Pacific and Pacific Green Trucking are nothing more than "alter egos" of the same enterprise and both are liable for the violations….



AFL-CIO Blog: Fair Wage Program Ignites Fox News Hysteria

It seems like Fox News, always on the ball, just discovered the “We Can Help” outreach initiative the Labor Department launched in early April to inform workers about their pay rights and put a stop to wage theft. Faux News is now ranting against the department’s efforts to enforce the nation’s wage and hour laws.

We Can Help is a multilingual campaign aimed at low-wage and vulnerable workers with a special focus on reaching employees in such industries as construction, janitorial work, hotel/motel services, food services and home health care. It also will address such topics as…




Texas Civil Rights Review: South Texas Civil Rights Project Fights "Wage Theft"

Each year billions of dollars are ripped off from workers, through all sorts of little scams. It is very common apparently, when workers leave a job, for their employers to “forget” to pay for the last week or so of work. And employers scam billions of dollars annually by underpaying overtime hours. Whether lots of money is involved or not so much, it is still a fairness issue, and wage theft hurts the wage-earners, their dependents and the community. Checking online, I found several organizations fighting against wage theft nationally; it is a huge problem.


One new attorney working on this issue is in the Rio Grande Valley. I met him at the groundbreaking for the new South Texas Civil Rights Project (STCRP) office planned in Alamo. (Their current offices are getting too crowded at Cesar Chavez Road and Business 83.) The lawyer is Elliott Tucker, and he recently joined STCRP after graduating from Georgetown University and spending a year or so with another non-profit organization. I asked for an interview.


Braune: When I spoke to you at the groundbreaking, I was interested in your project and have since looked online and found that this is not a small issue at all. Could you please tell the readers a bit about what you are doing.


Tucker: I am the employment justice attorney for the South Texas Civil Rights Project, where my job is to find both legal and non-legal solutions to…



Think Progress: Steve King Slams Sec. Solis For Demanding Employers Pay Immigrants 'Every Cent They Earn'

Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) released an advertisement featuring DOL Secretary Hilda Solis informing viewers that “every worker in America has a right to be paid fully whether documented or not.” The video is meant to promote a government hotline which any worker can call to report wage theft. However, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) believes the ad is an “explicit invitation for illegal immigrants to bring the resources and power of the Department of Labor to bear against American employers.” In a damning press release, King accuses the DOL of engaging in a campaign to protect “illegal aliens” via its anti-wage theft campaign:

Whether they are using the Department of Labor to support illegal immigrants’ allegations against America’s employers, or the Department of Justice to invalidate Arizona’s illegal immigration enforcement law, this Administration continues to use the limited resources of the American taxpayer on behalf of illegal aliens,” said King. “It is shameful that Secretary Solis has to be reminded that her primary duty is owed to the American people, and not to those who have illegally entered our country. The Obama Administration needs to realize that the American people have a right to have their immigration laws enforced.”

King fails to note that, technically, the DOL is simply following the laws on the book. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) points out that, “[f]ederal courts and state and federal agencies have consistently held that core labor standards, including the right to organize, to a minimum wage, and to protection from discrimination, cover all workers, regardless of immigration status.” In other words, it’s not the DOL’s job to enforce the nation’s immigration laws — that’s under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security.



DC AFL-CIO: JUFJ's "Thinking Jewishly": 2010 Labor On The Bimah

Jews United For Justice’s annual Labor on the Bimah program is back, focusing this year on restaurant worker justice. Part of the Interfaith Worker Justice’s Labor in the Pulpit/Bimah/Minbar, the program weaves together labor issues, social justice, and Judaism in an effort to bring meaning and reflection back into Labor Day. "We will be working closely with the Restaurant Opportunities Center-DC and Interfaith Worker Justice to address problems such as low wages, wage theft, racial and gender discrimination, and a lack of health insurance and paid sick leave that occur in the restaurant industry," say event organizers. "As always, volunteers are critical to the growing success of Labor on the Bimah, especially as we work to break last year’s record participation of 45 congregations!"


People interested in volunteering or connecting your religious community with Labor on the Bimah/Pulpit/Minbar should email Jessie Posilkin, Labor on the Bimah coordinator, at jessie@jufj.org. – Robin Metalitz, Jews United for Justice



InTheseTimes: Activists Hash Out a Labor Manifesto at the U.S. Social Forum

DETROIT—Ashim Roy was part of a factory takeover that led to workers running the factory for six years, and helped push legislation mandating that workers and company owners must jointly negotiate the conditions of a closure.


Emma Delgado is an immigrant domestic worker, among the thousands who suffer frequent wage theft, are forced to work with toxic chemicals and other exploitative conditions. They cannot form a union, but they have formed a nationwide alliance of hundreds and are fighting for a national Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, similar to one that passed this month in the New York legislature.


Saket Soni marched from the Gulf Coast to Washington D.C. with Indian guest workers who escaped from slavery-like conditions at a Mississippi shipyard. They held a month-long hunger strike demanding…



Media Matters: Right wing discovers long-established Labor Dept. policy on unauthorized workers

Right-wing media have denounced Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ campaign informing vulnerable workers, including the undocumented, about the wage standards to which they are entitled. However, the Labor Department’s policy of enforcing labor laws without regard to immigration status long predates the Obama administration; moreover, the enforcement of labor laws is widely seen — even by those who advocate for greater restrictions on immigration — as a key to discouraging employers from hiring unauthorized workers.

Right-wing media shocked that Dept. of Labor wants to crack down on exploitation of workers, including the undocumented

“We Can Help” campaign aims to inform workers about “the broad array of services offered by the Department of Labor.” Solis announced the “We Can Help” campaign on April 1. A Labor Department press release states, “The effort, which is being spearheaded by the department’s Wage and Hour Division, will help connect America’s most vulnerable and low-wage workers with the broad array of services offered by the Department of Labor.” Contrary to the suggestion made by some bloggers that the campaign and hotline were created solely for undocumented workers, they are aimed at all vulnerable workers, regardless of immigration status….


Wage Theft on Menu at Safari World Tapas Bar

A worker from yet another downtown restaurant is partnering with Workers Interfaith Network to try to win her stolen wages back. Zorina Bowen worked at Safari World Tapas Bar on South Main St. as a cook for three weeks last summer to help out the owner, who was a friend. She was only paid $440 of her wages, and she is still owned $1,493. She was fired when she asked for the rest of her pay.


As you may have seen on ABC 24’s news last week, WIN members joined with Ms. Bowen to picket the restaurant after many attempts to talk with management. A manager came out to belittle Ms. Bowen for not having enough money to hire a lawyer, and refused to talk privately with WIN staff about our records which show how much she is owed….



OpEdNews: US Social Forum: Fighting Wage Theft

The US Social Forum (USSF), a convergence of activists, organizers, and engaged citizens from around the country, is underway in Detroit. Numerous organizations have registered to put on workshops throughout the forum. Many leaders from worker advocate organizations will be present with the hopes of networking and mobilizing movements to improve the lives and increase the rights of workers all over this nation.


Ted Smukler, public policy director for Interfaith Workers for Justice (IWJ), will be participating in the USSF part of a workshop called, "Wage Theft: What is It and What Can We Do About It?" Smukler and IWJ will be participating because this event will be "the largest gathering of progressive activists" this year and it will be a great opportunity to network and learn about other issues and organizations in the country.


Interfaith Workers for Justice is a national organization that organizes and mobilizes "the religious community in this country to support the…



San Fran Bay Guardian: God's not on the side of the union busters

“God may or may not be on the side of unions, but a Catholic scholars group says that being on the other side, that is being against unions, is a "grave violation" of the church’s social doctrine. Opposing unions is, in fact, a mortal sin. And should be.


Anti-union actions violate both the letter and spirit of Catholic social doctrine, declared the Massachusetts- based Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice in a document distributed recently by the Catholic News Service.


 Specifically, say the scholars, it violates church doctrine to try to block union organizing campaigns, stall in union contract talks, unilaterally roll back wages and benefits and violate existing labor contracts and other labor-management agreements.


Those tactics are far too common among the tactics used against unions by far too many employers, including many who are Catholic and presumably follow church teachings.  That’s not to mention the lay employers who operate Catholic hospitals and other facilities for the church and…”



NYT: As China Aids Labor, Unrest Is Still Rising

“On a hot morning in late May, while some 2,000 workers at a Honda  parts factory were striking in China’s south, 100 irate employees at a hotel in the heart of the capital staged their own protest.The Honda workers got lots of publicity. The hotel employees were mostly ignored. But the undercurrent was the same: labor disputes are becoming a common feature of the Chinese economic landscape.


Chinese workers are much more willing these days to defend their rights and demand higher wages, encouraged by recent policies from the central government aimed at protecting laborers and closing the income gap. Chinese leaders dread even the hint of Solidarity-style labor activism. But they have moved to empower workers by pushing through labor laws that signaled that central authorities would no longer tolerate poor workplace conditions, legal scholars and Chinese labor experts say.


The laws, enacted in 2008, were intended to channel worker frustrations through a system of arbitration and courts so no broader protest movements would threaten political stability.


But if recent strikes and a surge in arbitration and court cases reflect a rising worker consciousness partly rooted in awareness of greater legal rights, they also underscore new challenges in China. The labor laws…”



TruthOut: Kansas City Project Aims to Help Hispanics Collect Unpaid Wages

Jesus Perez was promised $20 an hour to pour concrete for a residential construction company.


    But he said he has received nothing for the 160 hours he worked over a three-week period in September and October.


    So recently, with the weather bad and construction jobs hard to find, Perez and two co-workers met with volunteers with the Kansas City Worker Justice Project, one of a growing number of nonprofit groups seeking to collect unpaid wages for immigrant workers.


    Social service agencies report a rampant problem of wage theft in industries that employ large numbers of Hispanics. They say many undocumented Hispanics don’t protest when they aren’t paid because they fear deportation.


    Further complicating the problem, experts say the federal government is spending less money enforcing wage and hour laws, leaving the burden to states and nonprofits, like the Kansas City Worker Justice Project.



People'sWorld: In English, Chinese and Spanish, low-wage workers demand rights bill

A newly formed coalition, the Progressive Workers’ Alliance, is bringing low-wage workers together across language, race and community in a two-pronged struggle – to fight wage theft, violation of workers’ rights and unemployment, and to oppose Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed city budget cuts, which the coalition says would slash vital services and balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.


In a program conducted in Spanish, Chinese and English, coalition members rallied on the steps of City Hall June 16 to introduce a Low Wage Worker Bill of Rights they say will help to redress the abuses many low-wage workers experience daily on the job.


The Bill of Rights calls for protecting workers’ rights and enforcing labor laws, supporting responsible businesses, providing job opportunities and training, protecting the social safety net for all working people, and equal treatment for all workers.



NYT: U.S. Cracks Down on Farmers Who Hire Children

“The Obama administration has opened a broad campaign of enforcement against farmers who employ children and underpay workers, hiring hundreds of investigators and raising fines for labor and wage violators.


A flurry of fines and mounting public pressure on blueberry farmers is only the opening salvo, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in an interview. Ms. Solis, the daughter of an immigrant farm worker, said she was making enforcement of farm-labor rules a priority. At the same time, Congress is considering whether to rewrite the law that still allows 12-year-olds to work on farms during the summer with almost no limits.”



AFL-CIO Blog: ILO Takes Big Step Toward Domestic Workers' Rights

The International Labor Organization (ILO) this week took a giant step forward in the fight to create workplace justice for the millions of housekeepers, nannies and other domestic workers around the world. At its International Labor Conference, which ends in Geneva tomorrow, the ILO began the process to establish a first-ever international standard (”convention”) to protect the rights of domestic workers.

If the convention is passed at the ILO’s meeting in 2011, it would require governments that ratify it to ensure domestic workers are covered by the fundamental rights and principles of the ILO, which include the freedom to form unions, elimination of forced labor, abolition of child labor and the elimination of discrimination.



San Antonio Times: Texas Republicans calls for end of Day Laborer Worker Centers

Texas Republicans on Saturday adopted another get-tough policy on immigration and bilingual education that some say will make it hard for the party to attract votes from the state’s ever-growing Hispanic population.

The platform encourages state lawmakers to create a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense “for an illegal alien to intentionally or knowingly be within the State of Texas.”

It opposes amnesty “in any form leading to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”

The platform also emphasizes border security, encouraging “all means” to “immediately prevent illegal aliens.” Texas Republicans also want to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a U.S. citizen, “with no exceptions.” And the platform calls for an end to day-labor work centers.

The party’s education platform calls for the end of federal government-sponsored pre-school and opposes mandatory pre-school and kindergarten.

Bilingual education should end after the third year, according to the platform, and noncitizens should not be eligible for state or federal college financial assistance.




Labor Justice Committee: Moving forward with Criminal Charges!

As you may remember, in November the Committee asked District Attorney Jaime Esparza to meet with us to discuss the possibility of  criminal prosecution against wage theft.


After multiple meetings over the last few months, a Committee member, with the support of the District Attorney, submitted an unprecedented wage theft complaint to the El Paso Police Department under the Texas Penal Code Theft of Services statute…



The Nation: Ms. Solis Goes to Immokalee

“"For years we’ve been doing wage-theft cases where people don’t get paid for a day, a week, or a month," said Asbed. "One person or 100 people–people who walk in our office, or members who call in from Georgia or elsewhere. We call the employer, tell them their rights, what the laws are. And we try to convince them to do the right thing. In the majority of cases they do. But there is a significant minority who don’t. In the past we’ve referred these matters to the states’ labor agencies or the federal Department of Labor, with mixed results, to say the least. But Secretary Solis is making it very clear that she wants her investigators to work with us–to be present down here. If we have cases that have hit a wall, she wants us to take them to the investigators. And we’re going to do that…."




Prog. States: Workplace Standars for Domestic Workers

On June 1, the New York Senate put the state in position to be first in the nation to enact a Domestic Workers’ Rights law (S2311) by a vote of 33-28.  The New York Assembly led the way in June 2009 when it passed its own version of the bill (A1470).  This groundbreaking legislation will extend core labor rights, from fair labor standards to paid sick days, to creating a framework for collective bargaining, to domestic workers.  This will include those employed to work in a private home to perform housekeeping and/or to care for children, the infirm, or the elderly. 

The two versions of the law must…



Ohio State Legislature goes on recess: Wage Theft bill languishes

“Other bills proposed by Senate Democrats to ban texting while driving (Senator Shirley Smith–SB 164), crack down on wage theft (Senator Sue Morano–SB 212) and prohibit hiring discrimination based on credit history (Senator Ray Miller–SB 91) also languish in committee while the Senate goes on a recess that could last until November.”