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Washington State Latest to Sign Bill Against Wage Theft

Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill to combat wage theft this week, adding Washington to a growing number of states and counties, including Miami-Dade County, cracking down on employers who underpay workers (many of them undocumented immigrants) and violate minimum wage and overtime rules.  Progressive States Network highlighted many of the key provisions, model legislation and resources available for wage theft and enforcement policies back in December.

Many workers' rights advocates cite wage theft as the number one complaint heard from workers in recent months - a trend echoed by researchers In fact recent studies have found wage theft is endemic among low-wage workers: according to a 2009 National Employment Law Project study, an overwhelming 68 percent of low-wage workers surveyed throughout the nation reported wage theft in 2008, regardless of their citizenship status. 

Washington's law provides the State's Department of Labor and Industries with new tools to combat wage theft, including imposing penalties on businesses that repeatedly violate wage laws and allows the Department to require wage bonds of businesses that habitually fail to pay wages owed to their workers. Wage theft continues to multiply, preventing many workers from making a fair wage and often preventing state and local governments form collecting thousands of dollars in state and local income and employer taxes.  On top of other bills introduced earlier in the session in other states, wage theft bills were introduced in Illinois (SB 3568) and New York state (S 07050) just in the last ten days.    

Resources:
National Employment Law Project - Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America's Cities
Interfaith Worker Justice - Thou Shalt Not Steal: A Toolkit on Wage Theft
Progressive States Network - Promoting Wage Law Enforcement Policies in 2010
Talking Points Memo - Sunlight and Enforcement Are the Best Disinfectants (Against Wage Theft)
Kim Bobo, Interfaith Worker Justice -Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid - And What We Can Do About It (The New Press, 2009)