Wage Law Enforcement

New Mexico Enacts Wage Law Enforcement, Joins National Trend

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson recently signed a wage enforcement bill (H 489) to allow underpaid workers to collect their back wages plus twice that amount in damages. The bill was backed by community groups and labor unions as well as the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.  New Mexico now becomes the eighth state that allows workers to collect treble damages against employers violating the minimum wage — a key deterrent to employers to ensure compliance with the minimum wage. 

RELEASE: Policy recommendations from Corzine panel would put NJ at forefront of immigration reform

JERSEY CITY, NJ — At a press conference this morning, Gov. Jon Corzine unveiled the results of his Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration Policy, which included recommendations for the establishment of an Office on New Americans to help integrate immigrant families into the state’s culture and work force.  Policy experts at the Progressive States Network (PSN) were quick to praise the panel’s recommendations, which they placed within an emerging trend among state lawmakers to include working immigrant families into plans for shared economic growth.

According to PSN Interim Executive Director Nathan Newman, who authored a comprehensive 50-state analysis of state immigration policy last September, “The story that states are rushing out to punish undocumented immigrants is really a smoke screen. When you look at the facts, you see that more and more states are finding ways to integrate immigrants into a growing workforce and thriving small business community.  States like New Jersey realize that there is a far better economic future in working together than there is in dividing the population against itself.”

Don't create scapegoats: Enforce wage laws for all

Don't create scapegoats: Enforce wage laws for all

Des Moines Register
April 02, 2008
Senator Joe Bolkcom

Obama's labor secretary pick backs enforcement

President Obama's pick for secretary of labor, Rep. Hilda Solis, could help shape a new approach to immigration control that emphasizes the robust enforcement of labor laws.

Where the Bush administration stepped up workplace immigration enforcement, sweeping up migrant workers and not always going after the employers who illegally hire them, the Obama administration is expected to take a different tack.

Immigrant advocates hope that strengthening compliance with workplace health and safety laws and wage and hour standards - which Solis promised in her hearing before the labor committee in January - will protect workers in general and could reduce the likelihood that some employers will seek to profit by hiring undocumented workers.

Hypocrisy is running north of the border

News item #1: As of Nov. 30, 13 states had enacted 19 employment laws related to immigrants since Jan. 1, 2008, according to a December report issued by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The laws covered hiring unauthorized workers, employment verification, unemployment benefits and so forth.

The states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and, of course, Mississippi.

The Crisis of Wage Theft

The Crisis of Wage Theft

Billions of dollars in wages are being illegally stolen from millions of workers each and every year, writes Kim Bobo, in this excerpt from her new book Wage Theft in America (The New Press)

By Kim Bobo November 24, 2008

A few years ago, I heard about a garment factory near my house where workers weren't making the minimum wa

Iowa Meatpacker Is Fined Nearly $10 Million

October 30, 2008

Meatpacker Is Fined Nearly $10 Million

State labor authorities levied nearly $10 million in fines Wednesday for wage violations at an Iowa meatpacking plant where nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers were arrested in a raid in May.

The fines against Agriprocessors Inc., one of the country’s largest kosher meatpackers, were the largest wage violations penalties ever levied in Iowa, state officials said.

About $9.6 million of the fines were for illegal paycheck deductions the company made for protective jackets and other uniforms that packinghouse workers were required to wear. Iowa inspectors found 96,436 deductions for uniforms from the paychecks of 2,001 workers, and brought fines of $100 per incident.

The workers’ wages had been reduced by $192,597, Iowa officials said.

“You cannot legally deduct for clothing required by the company,” said Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, the state’s labor department.


Given the justifiable concern by voters surrounding illegal sweatshops, a number of state leaders are looking beyond punishing immigrant workers, to concentrating on raising wages for all workers, and increasing penalties for wage law violators across the board.

While many advocates of "fighting illegal immigration" claim to be doing so in the name of helping low-income workers, it is remarkable that almost none of them are addressing the pervasive theft of low-income worker wages by employers violating wage laws.  Instead of promoting a narrow tactic like sanctions against employers of undocumented workers, which only drives the problem of low-wage employment underground, cracking down on sweatshops and wage violators would be one of the most effective deterrents to employers recruiting undocumented immigrants.  If all employers have to pay a decent wage, the attraction of hiring undocumented immigrants would diminish tremendously. Since going after employers who violate wage laws will politically unite all workers, immigrant and native alike, cracking down on those abusive employers will actually strengthen the progressive political base.

Where anti-immigrant politicians proposed workplace sanctions against immigrants in 2008, a number of progressive leaders in states  proposed bills or amendments that highlighted the broader illegality of broken wage and safety laws that undermine workplace standards for all Americans.


Core wage enforcement legislation should include: