On the heels of a report stating that Florida is the 15th worst state in the nation for workers trying to recover stolen wages, the Broward County Commission directed the county attorney to draft a wage theft ordinance, following the examples of Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The report issued by the Progressive States Network graded states based on how well they protect workers ability to receive their earned wages. According to the report, if this were school, Florida would have flunked out by now.
“By our estimation New York has the strongest law in the country,” says Tim Judson, workers' rights policy specialist with the Progressive States Network, and co-author (with Cristina Francisco-McGuire) of a new study, Cracking Down on Wage Theft: State Strategies for Protecting Workers and Recovering Revenues. “But wage theft laws are almost universally poor. In recent years a few states took strong steps, but even those laws have a ways to go before they are a model standard that could really be effective in cracking down on a problem this huge.”
This 50-state survey of states’ wage theft laws reveals the majority of state laws to be grossly inadequate, contributing to a rising trend in workplace violations that affects millions of people throughout the country. The growth of this and other forms of the “underground economy” also have a serious impact on state revenues, amounting to billions of dollars per year in tax and payroll fraud. Several states are acting to address these problems by strengthening their laws against unscrupulous employers.
Wage theft, or the systemic non-payment of wages by unethical employers, is a growing problem affecting millions of workers across the country and costing states billions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Yet, only a few states are starting to address the problem in earnest through legislation – and the vast majority have laws that are grossly inadequate. Those are the conclusions of an extensive, first-of-its-kind evaluation of state laws, Where Theft is Legal: Mapping Wage Theft Laws in the 50 States, released by Progressive States Network. The report grades individual states across the broad body of state laws needed to comprehensively address this growing national crime wave, and concludes that 44 of the 50 states (plus Washington D.C.) deserve failing grades.
A state that asks everyone, including the luckiest few, to pay their fair share during a time of historic inequality. A state with a minimum wage above the federal floor that helps boost consumer spending and power the economy. A state that has been able to avoid economically devastating budget cuts and public sector job losses by seeking responsible budget solutions.
What one word might describe a state that has adopted policies like the above to rebuild their economy? The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has one in mind: “poor.”
Progressive States Network Board Member and former Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree was a guest on MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes on Sunday May 13, 2012 (Mother's Day) discussing how state and federal policy affects moms — with her mom, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME).
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.