Archive for the ‘overtime pay’ Category
Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
It’s been in the works for months, but on Wednesday it becomes official: The Obama administration is making millions of workers eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. Currently, only workers making salaries of less than $23,660 a year—$455 a week—automatically get overtime pay when they work extra hours. Effective December 1, that number will double to $47,476, which is less than the “about $50,400” the president announced last summer, but still enough to directly cover an additional 4.2 million workers.
On a call with reporters Tuesday, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said the reform was meant to address “both underpay and overwork.”
“The overtime rule is about making sure middle-class jobs pay middle-class wages,” Perez said. “Some will see more money in their pockets … Some will get more time with their family … and everybody will receive clarity on where they stand, so that they can stand up for their rights.”
In addition to the 4.2 million workers who will automatically become eligible for overtime pay, more than eight million more are expected to get overtime because their employers will no longer be able to dodge the rules by calling them managers even though little of their work is managerial.
That includes workers like one cited in Obama’s email announcing the change:
As an assistant manager at a sandwich shop, Elizabeth sometimes worked as many as 70 hours a week, without a dime of overtime pay. So Elizabeth wrote to me to say how hard it is to build a bright future for her son.
It’s a shame the Obama administration didn’t stick with a new threshold of more than $50,000, but doubling the existing, pitifully low threshold and updating it every three years, as is included in the new rule, is a major advance for millions of workers. And as always, it’s a reminder that a Democratic president who’s prepared to use every aspect of government can do a lot, even with a Republican Congress blocking so much.
This blog originally appeared at DailyKOS.com on May 18, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.
Tuesday, February 16th, 2016
A bunch of congressional Republicans (and two Democrats who should be ashamed of themselves) are very upset that the Obama administration plans to expand overtime pay eligibility. The lawmakers have written a letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez expressing concern about changes that aren’t even being made, but mostly about the fact that they don’t want people to get overtime pay:
What is in the rule, which the members of Congress who signed the letter don’t like, is a long overdue increase in the salary an employee must be paid if an employer wants to avoid paying overtime. The current rule sets that exemption threshold at $23,660 a year—below the poverty line for a family of four. The proposed rule, as the representatives note, “would raise the salary threshold and require employers to pay overtime for all employees who make $50,440 or less per year.” The signers don’t like that, but the reasons they give don’t hold water.
The letter says the increase in the threshold would suddenly make 5 million employees eligible for overtime pay. That’s true, and it’s a good thing. Making employers pay their employees extra when they work more than 40 hours in a week is the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It’s good for those employees and their families, whether they get paid more or are simply allowed to spend more time with their families. And because it applies to all employers equally, it will not create competitive burdens.
The representatives claim the proposed salary threshold somehow fails to take into account the fact that “the purchasing power of a dollar is drastically different in various parts of our country.” But the claim is ridiculous. The point of the salary threshold is that workers paid less than this amount—even if they are classified by their employers as managers or executives—are automatically entitled to overtime protections. Essentially, this threshold separates workers with genuine managerial and professional responsibility, who have substantial autonomy over their work schedule and have real bargaining clout with their employers, from those workers who are simply labeled “managers” (often by employers precisely looking to avoid the obligation to pay overtime) but who nevertheless can be compelled to work long hours.
A fair day’s wage
? Workers in Las Vegas’s Culinary Union were denied a permit to protest outside the Palace Station Hotel & Casino, so they were like “fine, we’ll commit nonviolent civil disobedience … “
? A Kentucky judge ruled against a county-level anti-union law.
? Wage theft, sexual assault, and no sick leave: The horrible conditions facing poultry workers.
? This is vile behavior to see from a teacher, let alone a teacher whose school has elevated her as a model for others. And before dismissing it as a one-time occurrence, consider that the video was recorded by an assistant teacher who was sick of watching that sort of thing. And that at Success Academy charter schools:
Jessica Reid Sliwerski, 34, worked at Success Academy Harlem 1 and Success Academy Harlem 2 from 2008 to 2011, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal. She said that, starting in third grade, when children begin taking the state exams, embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.
? A war on teachers in Virginia.
? John Kasich is riding high in the Republican presidential primary, at least temporarily, so let’s take a look at Kasich’s education record.
This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on February 13, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.
Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
NPR had a bizarre piece on the Labor Department’s new overtime rules which seemed intended to undermine support for them. These rules would increase from $23,660 to $50,440, the floor under which salaried workers would automatically qualify for overtime regardless of their work responsibilities.
While the piece does present the views on the new rules of Vicki Shabo, the vice-president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, the bulk of the piece is devoted to presenting the views of employers. No workers who will be affected by this rule were interviewed.
The discussion of the employers’ perspective begins with this little exercise in mind reading:
“But employers do not believe it would be a windfall for workers. They say they will be forced to cut costs in other ways if the proposed rules take effect as written — and that workers may not like those changes.”
Of course NPR reporters don’t know what employers “believe,” they know what they say. And it is understandable that they would tell a reporter that they don’t like the rules because they hurt workers, as opposed to the possibility that the new rules may hurt profits or force a cut in their own pay. Remarkably, two of the three employers whose views are presented in this piece work at non-profits, even though the vast majority of the workers affected are employed by for profit businesses.
The first employer is at the Michigan Health and Hospital Association which reportedly employs 107 workers.
“‘It only takes one bus accident, or one fire or something like the Ebola crisis,’ says Nancy McKeague, chief of human resources.
“She says her nonprofit can’t afford overtime, but it also can’t forgo having people work as needed.”
In effect, Ms. McKeague is saying that she is not paying workers for the time they work in an emergency, forcing them to work for free under such circumstances. This would be like having a lease with a landlord where the rent would be cut in half in the event of one bus accident or one fire or something like the Ebola crisis. No one would expect a landlord to agree to such a lease, but apparently Ms. McKeague believes that her workers should accept this sort of labor contract.
The piece also wrongly asserts:
“The rules will also require her to review tasks associated with every job to see whether the position qualifies for overtime.”
In fact, the opposite is true. She should have already been reviewing the tasks associated with every job to see whether the position qualifies for overtime. She apparently assumed that the positions in question did not qualify for overtime, but this actually requires an assessment of job duties to determine whether workers have enough supervisory responsibilities to be exempt from overtime requirements. Under the new rules no such review is necessary, if they earn less than the pay cutoff, workers qualify for overtime regardless of what tasks they perform.
Next we get Cecilia Boudreaux, the human resources director for the Regina Coeli Child Development Center, a Head Start program in Robert, La.The piece tells us:
“Under the new rules, Boudreaux says, 26 of her 35 salaried employees would qualify for overtime pay, in the event of a building emergency or if a parent is late for pickup. But increasing salaries would cost at least $74,000 extra a year — meaning she’d have to cut costs elsewhere.”
Actually, nothing about the new rules requires Ms. Boudreaux to increase salaries by a dime. She can simply rewrite contracts so that workers have a lower normal pay rate. Then if they work a normal amount of overtime they would end up with the same pay as they get now. If they work less than normal, they would get paid less and if they work more than normal they would get paid more. There is no reason that the change in rules would necessarily add to the center’s cost, it just removes the risk for workers that they would be forced to work unpaid overtime or risk losing their job.
Then we hear from Tony Murray, HR director for Diamond B Construction. According to the piece, Murray says many workers would consider going from salaried to hourly a demotion.
“‘”When I was younger, all I [wanted] to do was get to a salaried position just simply because you knew what was going to be coming in each week and you did have the flexibility,” he says, including the ability to go to soccer tournaments or work late to make up for doctor’s appointments. Murray says under the new rules, those converted back to hourly status wouldn’t be able to do that.
“‘Millennials take into account more than anything workplace flexibility,’ he says. ‘And of course who do you think is in that entry-level management … millennials more than anything.’”
It might have been helpful to talk to some of Mr. Murray’s workers to see if his assessment of their view of the new overtime rules is correct.
This blog originally appeared on CEPRE.net on September 15, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Dean Baker is an American economist whose books have been published by the University of Chicago Press, MIT Press, and Cambridge University Press.
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Recently, the Department of Labor proposed a rule to bring overtime up-to-date. If the proposal goes into effect, an additional 5 million white-collar workers are expected to benefit from overtime. The Department of Labor wants to hear your voice on this proposal and until this Friday, September 4, 2015, they are taking comments on the proposed rule.
Whether a worker receives overtime or not is determined by a three-part test. Under this test, the employee does not receive overtime when:
- they are paid a fixed salary;
- their salary is at least $455 a week (which equates to $23,660 a year); and
- their job primarily involves executive, administrative, or professional duties.
Furthermore, there are exemptions for highly compensated employees who regularly perform executive, administrative, or professional duties and make at least $100,000 a year, including at least $455 a week via salary or fees.
The Department of Labor’s proposal would focus on the salary aspect of the three-part test. Instead of a stagnant number, the salary standard would be set at the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers, which is expected to be about $970 a week, $50,440 a year, in 2016. For highly compensated employees, the standard would be set at the 90th percentile, expected to be $122,148 annually.
This proposal would be a drastic change, but a necessary one. The salary threshold has only been updated twice in the last 40 years. As a result, only 8% of full-time salaried workers fall under the threshold. This is a stark contrast from 1975 when 62% of full-time salaried workers fell below the threshold. Under the Department of Labor’s proposal, of the five million new workers expected to qualify for overtime, 53% of them would have college degrees and 56% would be women.
These days, the few that do fall under the salary threshold for overtime likely fall under another threshold, the poverty line. The poverty line for a family of four is $24,008 a year, or $348 more than the overtime threshold. This means that, a worker making $460 a week could work 50 hours every week, receive no overtime pay, and be below the poverty line.
The Department of Labor’s proposal can still change and they want to hear from you on a wide variety of issues. The agency wants your opinion on the proposal to use the 40th and 90th percentiles, or switch to using changes in inflation to determine the salary threshold. They want to know whether the three-part test is working. First and foremost, they want to know what overtime pay would mean to you and your family.
Make your voice heard and make it clear that this is an important issue that has been ignored for far too long. Share your ideas on the proposal here and your story here. You only have until Friday, but please, don’t make the comments too long they would have to work overtime to read them all, and chances are they don’t get paid for that.
About the Author: The author’s name is Erik Idoni. Erik Idoni is a student at the George Mason University School of Law and an intern at Workplace Fairness.
Monday, July 13th, 2015
Millions of workers who have not been receiving overtime pay would become eligible under a newly announced rule change. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the number of newly overtime eligible workers could be as high as 15 million. The change would update what is known as the “white collar” exemption to the overtime pay rules that covers certain executive, administrative and professional employees. Currently, these types of employees can be classified as “exempt” (meaning not entitled to mandatory overtime pay) so long as they are paid a salary of at least $455 per week ($23,660 per year) – an amount that is below the poverty line for a family of four and that has not been adjusted since 2004. Under the new rules, the minimum salary requirement for exempt white collar workers would increase to $970 per week ($50,440 per year) for 2016 and be indexed going forward to keep pace with inflation. Workers whose salary falls below this level would now be classified as “non-exempt” and guaranteed time-and-a-half for all hours worked over 40 per week.
While some big business groups are opposing the proposed changes, claiming terrible economic consequences will result if their labor costs increase; this is nothing new and the same cry that is heard every time they are forced to increase wages. The facts and history do not, however, support their dire warnings. In cities such as San Francisco and Santa Fe where the minimum wage has for years been set well above the federal minimum, and even coupled with other employee benefits such as paid sick leave and health-care, the impacts on employment have been essentially zero. Contrary to the claims of catastrophic job loss and business closing, studies have shown “no measurable” negative effect on employment when cities or states have raised their minimum wage above the federal minimum wage. Historically, increased pay for workers tends to generate a positive feedback loop – workers earn more, spend more, resulting in positive economic activity.
To put the pay figures in perspective, look back 40 years. In 1975 the minimum salary amount was adjusted and set to $250 per week. At that time, 65% of the American workforce was paid less – entitling them to overtime pay. Today, however, a mere 11% of the workforce earn less than the $455 per week minimum. Today, the $250 per week minimum salary would equate to more than $980 per week (approximately $51,000 per year) if it had been annually adjusted per the Consumer Price Index. So, to merely keep middle-class workers in the same economic position they were in as of 1975, the current $455 per week minimum salary would need to be increased to at least $980 per week. This is roughly what is being proposed under the new rules.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was implemented in 1938 to specifically address the serious problems caused by the overworking and underpayment of our nation’s core middle-class workforce. The two primary reasons the FLSA was put into place are:
- First, to protect against working conditions that are “detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers.” The law recognizes that employees need some time off to spend with family and relaxing from often stressful work and provides an economic incentive to not overwork employees. If an employer is going to demand work hours that deprive employees of this precious down time, the law places a premium value on such time – a cost that the employer must cover.
- Second, requiring the payment of time and a-half for all hours over 40 per week creates and strong economic incentive for employers to hire more people and spread the work, instead of overworking their existing staff. This helps to reduce overall unemployment in the U.S. economy, an issue every bit as relevant today as it was 75+ years ago.
The proposed changes to the overtime pay regulations are important to restore fair pay to millions of middle-class workers and are consistent with the overall goals and policy objectives that originally inspired the federal overtime pay laws.
About the Author: The author’s name is Jillian Johnson. Jillian Johnson is a freelance writer from New Jersey who has contributed to an array of blogs of various industries, particularly business, finance and health. She freelanced for a local NJ parenting magazine “Curious Parents” magazine and wrote for her college newspaper, “The Tower,” ultimately becoming the Editor-in-Chief. Jillian holds a BA in Communications and is currently working towards a BSN.
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
President Obama’s administration took another promised step on Tuesday towards raising the living standards of American workers, and Republicans and business groups are not likely to be able to stop it.
Using the administration’s power to update workplace rules regarding premium pay for overtime work, the Department of Labor on Tuesday began taking steps that could bring higher pay or more leisure time to an estimated 5 million middle-income workers by next year.
Business and conservative groups are likely to try to block the new overtime rules with court challenges and legislation, just as Republicans are still blocking President Obama’s modest proposed legislative increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 for low-income workers. But the political and legal winds favor the administration.
There’s a strong legal and factual case for the Department of Labor’s action. The current regulations are grossly out-of-date and out of sync with the intention of the original legislation. According to administration calculations, the new rules should give at least 5 million middle-income workers a boost in pay if they work more than 40 hours a week or fewer unpaid hours at work and more time for themselves and their families if they are not forced into overtime work.
Now all hourly workers are guaranteed time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours, but the rules do not require employers to pay time-and-half to salaried workers who make over $23,660 a year—even though that is below the poverty line for a family of four. Salaried workers below the threshold are regarded as being social equivalents to hourly workers. In 1975, 62 percent of salaried workers earned beneath the threshold and were guaranteed overtime pay by law, according to Ross Eisenbray of the Economic Policy Institute, but today the threshold only protects 8 percent of salaried workers. The new rules with a threshold of nearly $51,000 a year would provide overtime protection to about 44 percent of salaried workers.
If a salaried worker earns above the threshold and is a bona fide executive, administrative or professional employee, the employer does not have to pay him or her overtime. But this “white-collar exemption” is now widely abused, and employers give nominal managerial titles and a few administrative tasks to people in order to avoid paying time-and-a-half for more than 40 hours of work. Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project, a pro-worker research and advocacy group, also wants the new rules to more adequately define the kind of work that qualifies for the white collar exemption. At this point, the Labor Department has not proposed such revisions in defining who is a manager or professional.
“While we appreciate that doubling the salary threshold will extend overtime pay protections to millions of currently exempt workers,” she wrote in an organizational statement on the rules, “we are concerned that failure to address the existing tests’ vague definitions, laissez-faire approach to the mix of ‘salaried’ and ‘hourly’ duties required for exempt status and other shortcoming threaten to deny far too many workers the overtime pay protections they deserve and the statute contemplates.” NELP, for example, wants the rules to state that exempt workers cannot spend more than half of their time on non-exempt work.
With unions at their weakest since the 1920s, more public policy action to raise wages is necessary, not only for minimum-wage workers but also for middle-income workers, such as those protected by overtime rules. Also, inequality continues to grow. University of California at Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez recently calculated that despite recent growth in income of workers in the bottom 99 percent (an increase of 3.3 percent from 2013 to 2014), top 1 percent incomes grow faster and families in that sliver of the population captured 58 of real income growth per family from 2009 to 2014.
Overtime protection alone won’t reverse that trend, but it will make a real difference in the incomes and quality of life for millions of working families.
This blog was originally posted on In These Times on July 1, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: The author’s name is David Moberg. David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, June 17th, 2015
The Obama administration will soon unveil its new overtime pay rules, which will mean that millions of additional workers will get overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. Many low-wage employers are obviously upset about this—they’ve been using the weak overtime rules to make salaried employees work more than 40 hours a week for no extra pay, and they like it that way. Industry groups have been trying to make the case for keeping the overtime eligibility level low—it’s currently less than $24,000 a year—but the Economic Policy Institute’s Ross Eisenbrey shows just how weak those arguments are, taking a National Retail Federation report to the woodshed:
If the threshold is raised to $42,000, the NRF predicts significant changes in retail employment: while some employers will raise salaries for employees near the threshold to guarantee that they continue to be excluded from overtime protection, many salaried employees (some of whom work 60-70 hours a week for no extra pay) will have their hours reduced and as a result, 76,000 new jobs will be created averaging 30 hours per week. Altogether, half of the retail workforce that is currently excluded from coverage will be guaranteed coverage by the law’s overtime protections. That all sounds pretty good to me.The NRF’s projections are intended to be critical of the Labor Department’s rules update, but I have a hard time seeing why it would be a bad thing to create 76,000 new retail jobs, given that 8.6 million Americans are currently unemployed. Moreover, if I were a poorly paid bookkeeper or clerk in a department store, working 60 hours a week and getting paid no more than if I worked 40 hours, I’d be happy to see my hours cut and the extra work shifted to hourly employees.
Eisenbrey also points out that the NRF report suggests that the lobby group doesn’t think its members are following existing law: One of the requirements to exempt workers from overtime eligibility is that a worker have a managerial role, but the NRF report lists many traditionally non-managerial jobs such as bookkeepers, clerks, and secretaries as exempt from overtime.
Raises for some, fewer hours of work for others, and job creation. Gosh, those are some terrifying predictions for changes in overtime rules.
This blog was originally posted on Daily Kos on June 15, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: The author’s name is Laura Clawson. Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and a Labor editor since 2011.
Thursday, September 30th, 2010
The United States is a country where hard work is supposed to be rewarded. If you agree with that, would you be shocked to learn that there are more than 1.6 million homecare workers who are being denied federal minimum wage and overtime protections under current labor laws? And it is almost 2011!
Chew on this for a minute: More than 1 million hardworking Americans are legally denied basic labor rights most of us take for granted at this point. How did that happen, what can we do to change that?
It all goes back to The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was enacted in 1938 to ensure a minimum standard of living for workers through the provision of minimum wage, overtime pay, and other protections – yet, domestic workers were excluded.
In 1974 the FLSA was amended to include domestic workers, such as housekeepers, full-time nannies, chauffeurs, and cleaners. However, people who were described as “companions to the elderly or infirm” were for some reason excluded from the law. They were compared to babysitters…
I love asking the question: If your elderly family member needed homecare to change herself, use the bathroom, get lifted from the chair to the sofa, and then have her meds dispensed at specific times; would you call the babysitter you call for date night with your spouse? Of course you wouldn’t, so why does the government consider these hardworking homecare providers babysitters? Yeah, I don’t know either.
In 2001 the Clinton Department of Labor finds that “significant changes in the home care industry” have occurred and issued a “notice of proposed rulemaking” that would have made important changes to this bizarre exemption. So, that was good news, right?
It was good news until W came to town. The Bush Administration terminated the revision process shortly after taking office. Thanks, W!
Then comes 2007: the US Supreme Court, in a case brought by New York home care attendant Evelyn Coke, upheld the DOL’s authority to define this exception to the FLSA. In short, that means that this crazy archaic law can be reversed beginning with the DOL, today.
Before we get you to take action on this situation, please keep in mind that these million-plus workers are currently living at near poverty level earning a median income of $17,000 a year. Most of these workers, who both love their work and are good at their work, must have two and three jobs to just make ends meet. With this scenario in play, these workers are quick to burn out or leave their trade entirely. This ultimately comes back to the consumer who often finds it difficult to hire and retain high quality home care services.
This article was originally posted on SEIU”s Blog.
About the Author: Richard Negri is the founder of UnionReview.com and is the Online Manager for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Thursday, September 9th, 2010
You are deep in mandatory overtime (which you don’t get OT pay for) and you’re so exhausted that you start making really bad mistakes – dangerous mistakes.
We’ve all been there in one way or another in our working lives, but what if you were a patient and the exhausted worker making the mistakes was your resident physician? Obviously it can be a life or death situation for you. Resident physicians work shifts as long as 30 hours as often as three times a week, which can lead to physician fatigue and medical errors.
“As future physicians, we greatly value the well-being of our patients and know that we can serve them better if we are well ourselves,” says Sonia Lazreg, health justice fellow with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).
Dr. Charles Preston, a researcher with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and preventive medicine resident at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health says, “After a busy night on call, I remember a couple of times when I literally fell asleep on my patients standing up during morning rounds. I’d fall asleep while writing my patient progress notes. And driving home, I was careful to turn up the radio or blast the air conditioning so that I would at least have something more to keep me awake.” Can you imagine?
So, why is this dangerous system still in place?
Despite evidence that excessive work hours contribute to depression, car crashes, needle stick injuries and even premature labor for pregnant physicians, there are no Occupational Safety and Health Association (OHSA) rules protecting residents from these risks.
OSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor, is responsible for enforcing safety and health legislation, and it just doesn’t have the doctors-in-training on its radar … yet!
To get the OSHA radar blipping, consumer and health advocacy organizations delivered a petition to the agency today. You can read the petition here, and at the bottom of this entry you can see the full list of those petitioning OSHA.
The federal government already regulates work hours and sets rest-period requirements in a variety of industries, including the highway, aviation, railroad and maritime transportation industries, because fatigue plays a major role in transportation safety. In none of these industries are workers allowed to work hours even remotely as long as these physicians. Resident physicians deserve to have similar protections from excessive work hours that don’t give them adequate rest.
“OSHA must intervene so that physicians in training are no longer at risk for needle stick injuries, car crashes and other hazards that we know stem from chronic sleep deprivation.” says CIR/SEIU Healthcare President Dr. Farbod Raiszadeh.
Please get involved with this important situation. It will help you at the same time as some hardworking people.
For ideas on how to get involved, and to see this original article, visit SEIU.
About the Author: Richard Negri is the founder of UnionReview.com and is the Online Manager for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Monday, December 7th, 2009
Workers employed in low-wage and poorly regulated industries (most prominently restaurants, residential construction, domestic cleaning, and mechanics) are confronted with staggering exploitation as employers look to cut corners in today’s recession. Such exploitation includes health and safety violations, discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, firing for participating in union activity, and wage theft—failure to pay workers for work performed, including overtime hours and final pay periods.
To combat this wave of illegality, a Chicago worker center has collaborated with a local university to create a map of law-breaking employers against which they have organized, giving workers and activists a powerful visual tool to bring to politicians and the community.
The Arise Chicago Worker Center has no shortage of evidence for the dire conditions facing Chicago’s low-wage workers, having collaborated with over 2,050 workers in the past seven years.
None of the restaurant workers who have contacted our organization during that time received overtime wages. One of our members seriously injured his back at a construction site, but his employer refused to pay legally required workers’ compensation. One African-American member, who works for a state-funded social service agency, has consistently received paychecks one to three weeks late, for more than two years. A group of candy manufacturers were denied bathroom breaks.
Recently, we spoke with a Guatemalan immigrant car wash worker who works from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week, for $5.25 an hour. He does not receive overtime pay and takes home an average of $9 a day in tips. If that weren’t enough, the employer does not provide gloves needed for the work, and illegally deducts the cost of the workers’ required uniform from his paychecks.
With the help of the University of Illinois-Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development, Arise has mapped by ward—a political district—the law-breaking employers against which Arise has organized. The maps illustrate law-breaking employers in 43 of Chicago’s 50 wards, affecting workers living in 47 of the wards.
Groups of worker center members plan to meet with their ward aldermen to discuss workplace abuses and enlist support for a city response to the biggest problem facing low-wage workers: wage theft.
Clergy whose congregations are located in the 43 wards will join the workers. Recently, Catholic Bishop John Manz attended a meeting with Alderman Danny Solis in the 25th Ward, where Arise has recorded a dozen labor violations.
Solis committed to introducing the issue to the city council’s Hispanic Caucus, whose wards include great concentrations of Arise membership. Alderman Mary Ann Smith’s office offered to explore legislative strategies that could deny additional business permits to law-breaking employers. Additional meetings and research are planned to determine the best approach to address wage theft in Chicago—which may include a citywide ordinance that could make stealing a worker’s wages treated like other forms of theft.
*This post originally appeared in Labor Notes on December 3, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.
About the Author: Adam Kader (www.arisechicago.org) is the director of the Arise Chicago Worker Center, part of the national Interfaith Worker Justice network.