Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Most States Flunk Wage Theft Test

June 14th, 2012 | Mike Hall

Image: Mike Hall

A new report from the Progressive States Network (PSN) finds that workers in 44 states have little to no protection against wage theft. “Where Theft Is Legal: Mapping Wage Theft Laws in the 50 States” reports that:

States’ wage theft laws are grossly inadequate, contributing to a rising trend in workplace violations that affect millions of people throughout the country.

Wage theft, a growing problem affecting millions of workers, is the systemic non-payment of wages by unethical employers. The report graded states based on their legal protections for workers and paints a dim picture for low-wage workers in nearly every state. Only a few states are starting to address the problem in earnest through legislation—and the vast majority have laws that are grossly inadequate.

According to the report, more than 60 percent of low-wage workers say they have been victims of wage on a weekly basis. As a result, they lose 15 percent of their earnings each year on average—about $2,634 per year—with the majority of workers affected supporting at least one child.

PSN senior policy analyst Tim Judson, co-author of the report, says:

Working people throughout the country are losing billions of dollars each year to wage theft, and this report shows why: the laws needed to protect workers are too weak. Forty-four states would fail the basic test of enacting the right laws to address the crime. With millions more people being forced into lower-wage industries where wage theft is rampant, and states losing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and economic losses, the stakes for failure are simply too high.

Click here for the full report.

Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and its network of workers centers around the country have long recognized the gaping need for better wage protection for workers and have kicked-off several local wage theft campaigns over the past few years. IWJ Worker Center Coordinator Dianne Enriquez says:

Communities are building and passing wage theft enforcement ordinances in areas that are typically very conservative and it is clear that this is because people are tired of unethical employers stealing from them.

More information on IWJ’s local wage theft campaigns is available here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on June 13, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.

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2 Responses to “Most States Flunk Wage Theft Test”

  1. Thomas Sinclair II Says:

    I retired Air Force after 20 years in Feruary. Was a Boom Operator and Instructor, prior to that for 6 years a Tractor Trailer Driver. CR England offered me a job as tractor trailer driver. I worked for them for 9 weeks and they kept deductings for thiings I did not understand Never received a pay check for 9 weeks. Finally quit. Many truckers warned me about this company and I shoud leave. With my retirement just being able to pay my rent I was unable to pay my bills. I figure they owe me $11,000.00 Our electric was turned off for 3 weeks because I could not pay it. The last week I was there I had 3 loads given to me hoping I would receive about $900.00 These loads were taken off my CR England site however I did manage to print up two. They were supposed to give me a sign on bonus of $400.00. After I complained to the CEO I was given only $200.00. This has put me in such a financial problem I may have to declare Bankruptcy. I have copies of all my pay vouchers. They also made me sign up for lease saying I would get more loads and money. In the contract it stated they would be responsible for any maintenace problems. Truck broke down 5 times. First time at International it showed up 27 codes $2200.00 CR England deducted this from my pay. Next the transmission needed to be changed. $7,000.00. CR England deducted this from my pay. I had to pay for my motel and also pay for the Trainee motel stay for 4 days. My wife was forced to go to a Food Pantry for food as Food Stamps turned her down.

  2. Thomas Sinclair II Says:

    Worked as a Tractor Trailer Driver at CR England for 9 weeks. Never received any pay. Have copies of all my pay vouchers which show what they deductged and most which I cannot understand. Because of this I have quit and may have to declare bankruptcy.

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