How the American South Drives the Low-Wage Economy

How the American South Drives the Low-Wage Economy.

by Harold Meyerson.

Manufacturing has continued to move to the South, and factory workers’ wages have gone south as well. Between 1980 and 2013, The Wall Street Journal has reported, the number of auto industry jobs in the Midwest fell by 33 percent, while those in the South increased by 52 percent. Alabama saw a rise in manufacturing jobs of 196 percent, South Carolina of 121 percent, and Tennessee of 103 percent; while Ohio saw a decline of 36 percent, Wisconsin of 43 percent, and Michigan of 49 percent.

(Photo: AP/Erik Schelzig)

Many firms opening factories in the South pay wages well below companies like General Motors and Ford, despite paying higher wages in their home countries, and block attempts to unionize. The one exception is Volkswagen, which has not opposed employees at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant (above) from attempting to unionize.

Even as auto factories were opening all across the South, however, autoworkers’ earnings were falling. From 2001 to 2013, workers at auto-parts plants in Alabama—the state with the highest growth rate—saw their earnings decline by 24 percent, and those in Mississippi by 13.6 percent. The newer the hire, the bleaker the picture, even though by 2013 the industry was recovering, and in the South, booming. New hires’ pay was 24 percent lower than all auto-parts workers in South Carolina and 17 percent lower in Alabama.

One reason wages continued to fall throughout the Deep South, despite the influx of jobs, is the region’s distinctive absence of legislation and institutions that protect workers’ interests. The five states that have no minimum-wage laws are Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Georgia is one of the two states (the other is Wyoming) that have set minimum wages below the level of the federal standard. (In all these states, of course, employers are required to pay the federal minimum wage.) Likewise, the rates of unionization of Southern states’ workforces are among the lowest in the land: 4.3 percent in Georgia, 3.7 percent in Mississippi, 2.2 percent in South Carolina, 1.9 percent in North Carolina. The extensive use of workers employed by temporary staffing agencies in Southern factories—one former Nissan official has said such workers constitute more than half the workers in Nissan’s Southern plants—has lowered workers’ incomes even more, and created one more obstacle to unionization.

From the American Prospect.  Read the entire piece.

Is Fast-food Business Model Based on Wage Theft?

by Gregory N. Heires

McDonaldsThe fast-food business model is based on wage theft.

That’s the thrust of seven lawsuits that hit McDonald’s in three states last week.

Employees are cheated out of overtime.

They are forced to clock out when a computer monitoring program determines that profits are at risk because not enough customers showing up.

And the exploited workers’ pay falls below the minimum wage because they are forced to pick up the tab for cleaning their uniforms.

The lawsuits seek class-action status, which means thousands of workers could be covered. Continue reading

Teamsters Back School Bus Drivers in Fight Against ‘Rampant’ Wage Theft

by Bruce Vail


Baltimore area bus drivers, shown here protesting wage theft last May, will collect $1.25 million from employer Durham School Services once their settlement is finalized in April. Photo via Teamsters Local 570

More than 350 Baltimore-area bus drivers are preparing to celebrate victory in a $1.25 million wage theft case against Durham School Services, an Illinois-based bus-contracting company with operations across much of the country.

The case, which covers the employees at Durham between March 2010 and September 2013, reflects a troubling national trend of companies cheating workers out of their earnings. “Wage theft is a huge problem, and it’s outrageous,” says Andrew Freeman, one of the attorneys at Brown Goldstein Levy, the Baltimore-based firm that filed the suit against Durham last year. In their suit, the plaintiffs accused the company of failing to pay employees for overtime work such as bus inspections, bus cleanings, fueling, and other related tasks.

The settlement of the U.S. District Court case should be finalized April 4, with distribution of the stolen wage money following immediately afterward, says Moe Jackson, a union organizer for International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 570. For almost two years, the local has been trying to organize the drivers and aides at Rosedale, Jackson says, where employees are also bristling over low pay, substandard benefits and overbearing management practices. The Teamsters initiated the wage theft case on behalf of the workers, officers say, as a step in the unionizing process. Continue reading

Domino’s workers fired for protesting wage theft get their jobs back

by Laura Clawson


New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

The 25 Manhattan Domino’s workers who lost their jobs after protesting being forced to work below minimum wage will be back on the job this weekend, thanks to an agreement with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Delivery workers were told to do tasks that wouldn’t lead to tips, but the store continued to pay them a wage legal only for tipped workers. They protested, and lost their jobs.

Jose Sanchez, one of the reinstated Domino’s employees, said, “We are overjoyed by the Attorney General’s fight on our behalf, and are excited to be able to return to work at a legal wage. This was never just about us alone — it was about the 84% of NYC fast-food workers who, like us, are victims of wage theft in our city. My fellow employees and I were so moved by the solidarity and support we received from this community. As we keep up our push for $15/hour and the right to form a union, we know the community has our back.”

In addition to the attorney general’s role in getting the workers their jobs back, local politicians and community groups like New York Communities for Change pressured the Domino’s franchise owner with repeated rallies in support of the workers. It’s good to see that in New York, at least, when the attorney general notices labor laws are being broken, he takes action. But as Jose Sanchez pointed out, wage theft is overwhelmingly common in New York City’s fast food restaurants and often doesn’t draw notice, with workers not empowered or supported to fight back.

Laura Clawson reports on labor issues for Daily Kos where his post first appeared.

Domino’s workers fired for complaining about being paid below minimum wage

by Laura Clawson

New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez rallies with fired Domino's workers.

New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez rallies with fired Domino’s workers.

In response to last week’s strike by fast food workers, Manhattan Domino’s Pizza provided a crystal-clear example of why fast food workers are striking and organizing for better wages and working conditions:

Employees of a Washington Heights Domino’s claim they were fired from their delivery jobs after complaining to management about unfair wages. Workers at the 181st street chain participated in last Thursday’s nationwide walkout in solidarity with the country’s underpaid fast food workers, which included strong numbers of workers and supporters in New York City. Following the walkout, delivery workers—who are paid under $6 an hour and rely on tips to make a living wage—were asked to work extended hours inside the restaurant but were not offered increased hourly pay for their time inside the store. After bringing the issue to management’s attention, the 24 employees were fired. Continue reading

California Employers Who Owe Unpaid Wages Rarely Pay Up

Workers Cheated Out of Wages Unable to Hold Employers Accountable; Company Machinations Make it Tough to Collect


hollowvictoriesLOS ANGELES— Over 83 percent of workers in California are unable to hold employers accountable and recover their unpaid wages after receiving a legal judgment in their favor, according to a groundbreaking study by the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Labor Center.  The study, Hollow Victories: The Crisis in Collecting Unpaid Wages for California’s Workersexposes the challenges that workers face in collecting wages owed from their employers—even after state authorities rule in the workers’ favor and order employers to pay.  The report was released Thursday morning at a live press event featuring workers who have tried to claim their unpaid wages, representatives from State Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal’s office and labor leaders.

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Low-wage workers stage second one-day strike against wage theft by federal contractors

by Laura Clawson

The Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., was the site of a second one-day strike by low-wage workers at private businesses holding federal contracts Tuesday. The workers allege rampant wage theft, including minimum wage and overtime violations; last week Good Jobs Nation filed a complaint with the Labor Department naming eight employers at the Reagan Building as engaging in such violations.

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New York City fast food restaurants find a lot of ways to steal from their workers

A staggering 84 percent of New York City fast food workers reports having been a victim of wage theft, a new survey finds. Things are even worse for fast food delivery workers—100 percent of them report wage theft. The New York State attorney general is reportedly investigating pay practices in New York City fast food, and the new survey and report from Fast Food Forward offer a detailed picture of what that investigation might find.Employers cheat workers out of wages in a number of ways, forcing them to work off the clock before or after their shifts or during break times, not paying overtime when workers work more than 40 hours a week, making delivery workers pay for equipment they’re required to have to do their jobs, or just plain not paying the minimum wage. For instance, Shaquenna Davis, who works at a Wendy’s in Brooklyn, is quoted in the report saying:

“My manager clocks me out early at 1:15 am every day. I have to keep cleaning after I’m clocked out to close the store. Five of us work for about a half hour every night that we aren’t paid for, which adds up to about $80 a month for me since I make $7.25 per hour. It would mean a whole lot to me to have that $80 that Wendy’s doesn’t pay me. I could use that money to pay for school, food, or my metrocard.”

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A Swank Sushi Joint Gets a May Day Scolding From Angry Workers

By Jake Blumgart

On May 1, International Worker’s Day, a half circle of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) members and supporters surrounded the entrance to Fat Salmon, a high-end sushi restaurant in Philadelphia. They watched as Diana A. (she asked her last name not be used) walked into the restaurant to deliver a prepared statement denouncing, among other things, what some workers have described as an intricate system for stealing their tips.

Diana and two other workers have been “on strike” since last April 15, when they confronted the restaurant’s owner, Jack Yoo, with a similar statement listing their grievances. The May Day document included the names of four other employees who are still working but signed on in support. (Fat Salmon workers are not unionized, but the National Labor Relations Act protects any worker, union or not, who “engage in…concerted activities for the purpose of… mutual aid or protection.”)

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Study Shows the Crippling Effects of Unpaid Wages on Rhode Island Families

shortchanged_FL Fuerza Laboral/Power of Workers unveiled their publication Shortchanged: A Study of Unpaid Wages in Rhode Island, a report conducted with research assistance from the Schmidt Labor Research Center, University of Rhode Island at a March 5 press conference at the State House Rotunda in Providence, RI . The study reveals through statistical research and personal testimony the damage that nonpayment of wages imposes on local residents.

“I didn’t get paid, my bills were backed up, my rent was backed up, I got in trouble with child support” says Fuerza Laboral member and wage theft victim Patrick Pierce. “There were 15 other guys in the shop and none of us were paid, it doesn’t just affect me it affects them but also the corner store that I go to, and my daughters schooling and the government taking taxes”. Mr. Pierce, along with other nonpayment and wage theft victims spoke out about the need to strengthen existing law to stop this abuse; they were joined by union leaders and supporters.

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