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.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis last week announced a new state-federal program to crack down on a form of payroll fraud that has run rampant over the last decade. Absent stronger enforcement of labor standards, employers are going to great lengths to cash in by defrauding their workers and leaving taxpayers with the bill. Just this week, a NYC construction firm has been accused of using front companies to dodge union contracts. The unions allege the company used low-wage workers to pocket $7 million in wages and benefits from 2007-2011. A much more common and mundane way for employers to pad their bottom lines is by misclassifying employees as independent contractors. Through misclassification, companies can simultaneously defraud workers of minimum wage and overtime and dodge a variety of state and federal taxes: payroll, income, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation. Prosecuting the practice, and deterring employers from engaging in it, is both a vital way to protect working families’ economic security and an important measure to alleviate state and federal revenue crises.
The Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice,
a worker center in Phoenix, has seen a “huge spike” in wage theft --
violations of minimum wage laws -- since the passage of SB 1070,
Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. "Employers are even more brazen in their
mistreatment of workers," said Executive Director Trina Zelle in an interview with In These Times.
"Increasingly, 'Go ahead, try and make me pay you' is the response
workers hear when they confront their employers over unpaid wages."
This policy guide presents a series of state strategies to advance
workers rights that have
strong public support and present good opportunities to reframe the
debates over workers’ rights and the economy as values issues,
including: Paid Sick Days, Wage Law Enforcement, and Restoring the
Suman Raghunathan, PSN's Immigration Policy Specialist, joined State
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Laura
of GRITtv to discuss how progressive state legislators across the
nation are fighting back against draconian right-wing anti-immigrant
and advancing common-sense immigration solutions on both the state and
Advocates demanding stricter rules against illegal immigration -- including those backing Arizona's new law clamping down on undocumented immigrants -- have long argued that state lawmakers have been forced to act because of Congress's reluctance to take the lead.
But with little sign that Congress will act on comprehensive immigration reform this year, advocates for immigrants are also taking matters into their own hands. Like their political opponents, they have turned to their state legislatures to fight back.
In states from Pennsylvania to Utah, a battle of bills has been taking place between those who want to reproduce the Arizona law, which hands police more power to detain anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, and those who want to extend further rights to immigrants.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is entering the nation's charged debate over immigration, agreeing to hear a challenge from business and civil liberties groups to an Arizona law that cracks down on employers who hire undocumented workers.
The justices on Monday accepted an appeal from the Chamber of Commerce, American Civil Liberties Union and others to a lower court ruling that upheld Arizona's law.
On June 1, the New York Senate put the state in position to be first in the nation to enact a Domestic Workers' Rights law (S2311) by a vote of 33-28. The New York Assembly led the way in June 2009 when it passed its own version of the bill (A1470). This groundbreaking legislation will extend core labor rights, from fair labor standards to paid sick days, to creating a framework for collective bargaining, to domestic workers. This will include those employed to work in a private home to perform housekeeping and/or to care for children, the infirm, or the elderly.