A new report released by Progressive States Network names New York state a national leader in preventing wage theft -- or the nonpayment or underpayment by employers of wages legally owed to employees. The report also spotlights approaches taken by other states -- including Illinois, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Florida -- to a nationwide problem it argues is causing economic strain to workers and state taxpayers alike.
Employers who engage in wage theft are not just stealing from hard-working families. By not paying workers what they are owed, dishonest businesses not only place law-abiding employers at a competitive disadvantage. They slow down the economic recovery by depressing consumer spending needed to fuel economic growth and defrauding taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars. This brief previews a forthcoming Progressive States Network report on state wage theft laws by taking a closer look at the WTPA and comparing it to model policies being advanced in the states. Our forthcoming report will measure states’ existing wage theft laws against a comprehensive set of those model policies.
Legislators in Arizona conceded defeat this week in an attempt to gut the state’s minimum wage law. House Majority Leader Steve Court admitted that the law, enacted in a landslide 2006 ballot initiative with 65% of the vote, is still unassailable. Court’s decision wraps up a rough couple of months for legislators and lobbyists intent on rolling back minimum wage laws.
Progressive States Network Executive Director Ann Pratt issued a statement following the release of the jobs report showing the economy adding 233,000 private sector jobs and losing 6,000 public sector jobs in the month of February.
January has seen the minimum wage emerge as a major issue in 2012 policy debates, with a virtual consensus for raising the wage emerging among all but the extreme conservative fringe. Prominent conservatives from former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have come forward urging just that the minimum wage be raised automatically every year. State legislators championing minimum wage increases are also playing a pivotal role in driving the salience of inequality and economic security issues on the national stage.
In the year since conservatives took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and legislative bodies in states across the nation, we’ve seen them move their agenda with alarming disregard for both democracy and the economic security of the nation. From the irresponsibly provoked debt ceiling “crisis” to the wholesale obstruction of job creation efforts, conservatives on the national stage took an approach of reckless political brinksmanship over the past year that put the entire economy at risk. And from Wisconsin to Alabama and beyond, 2011 saw conservatives in the states—buoyed by support from their corporate allies in the 1%—launch attack after attack on workers, women, voters, and immigrants. But the new year brings new hope for progressives looking to turn the tide—hope that, for the time being, largely resides not in the halls of Congress but in the 50 states.