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

Chicago Ordinance

For Angel Nava, Chicago’s newly adopted wage theft ordinance is particularly personal.

Until recently, Nava had worked at the same car wash business in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for 14 years. The 55-year-old employee did it all — washing, detailing, buffing — for about 50 hours each week. Then, his boss decided to stop paying overtime.

In fact, Nava didn’t receive the overtime he was owed for the last four years he worked at the car wash. He told me (though a translator) that none of his co-workers were receiving overtime either — “everyone was very upset.” Nava said he knew his employer was acting illegally, but he didn’t know how to file a Department of Labor complaint or know of any community group that could help him fight for his wages. Eventually he was referred to the Arise Chicago Worker Center.

With the Worker Center’s help, the Department of Labor launched an investigation, and Nava eventually received a check for $1,300 — not nearly what he was owed, but it was something. Because of the wage theft experience, Nava quit his longtime job and now works for a different car wash making $7 an hour, which is above minimum wage for tipped employees in Illinois. (Employers must pay tipped workers $4.95 per hour, and tips are expected to bring the workers’ earnings to the state minimum wage of $8.25.)….