Ordinance To Revoke Business Licenses Of Wage-Stealing Employers Passes Chicago City Council Unanimously

Arise Chicago

arise_logoCHICAGO–(Nov 17) As a result of months of collaboration between interfaith workers’ rights organization Arise Chicago and Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th ward), today the City of Chicago passed an ordinance stating that, should a business owner be found guilty of wage theft, the owner’s business license could be revoked. The ordinance, held up by the National Employment Law Project as one of the strongest actions a municipality can take to combat wage theft, will benefit all workers of licensed businesses and their families in Chicago.“This ordinance helps change the conversation about good business. To be pro-business also includes caring about how employees are treated,” reflected Alderman Pawar. “I think this marks an important step in leveling the playing field for the many ethical business owners in our city.”

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Wage Theft and Low Wage Work in Philadelphia

by Stuart Elliott

Talking Union contributor Jake Blumgart has written a couple of outstanding articles on low-wage workers and wage theft.  In an interesting cover story  on wage theft in Philadelphia’s City Paper. He portrays some victims of wage theft: an undocumented carpenter, a waitress forced to share tips with her manager, and a coffee shop worker who wasn’t paid overtime despite working every day for two weeks. He also places the problems of low wage workers in historical perspective with some surprising facts.

In the past, unionization was a strong option for workers who wanted to defend against employer abuses. During the 1950s, within the now theft-wracked restaurant industry, 25 percent of America’s waitresses were unionized. Today, just 1.5 percent of food-service workers are organized. There are few remaining unionized independent restaurants in greater Philadelphia: the stadium-adjacent McFadden’s, Hymie’s Deli in Lower Merion and the Pen and Pencil Club, for example. Now, organizers tend to focus their efforts on the industry’s biggest employers, like food-services provider Aramark.

Nontraditional worker organizations provide an alternative to unions, but in Philadelphia there are only two options: the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania and the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), which is barely a year old.

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New York Named National Leader in Fight Against Wage Theft

by Josh Eidelson

Advocates say what had been a ‘pathetically weak’ law now has teeth

One year after New York’s new wage theft law took effect, the Progressive States Network has named the state the nation’s leader in confronting the issue. Speaking on a media call Wednesday, PSN Senior Policy Specialist Tim Judson said the 2010 law has proved “the strongest in the country.” But he warned that the national picture remains bleak: “Where wage theft is concerned, there are essentially no cops on the beat.”

“Wage theft” is a new term for an old issue: employers not paying workers their agreed-to wages. It takes many forms: withholding wages; not paying overtime rate for overtime hours; paying below minimum wage; pressing workers to work off the clock. In 2010, In These Times contributor Art Levine reported on the case of immigrant workers who were paid under $2 an hour for work at the New York State Fair.

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Why is there so little respect for hard work in the USA?

by Bob Simpson

Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB—- from the song “Respect” by Otis Redding

If you drive down I-55 or I-80 out of Chicago toward Joliet, they are hard to miss. Sprawling boxy-looking buildings, often windowless, but with constant activity as semi’s pull up to disgorge their contents. These are the warehouses of Will County, where goods meant mostly for North America’s big box stores are routed to their ultimate destinations. They employ thousands of people, mostly people of color, many of them immigrants. It is one of the largest and fasting growing USA centers for product distribution by truck and rail.

It was among those warehouses that Uylonda Dickerson, a single mom, found a job. What she did not find was respect. Not only was the pay rock-bottom, but when she reported for work, she was often sent home instead, because there was not enough to do. This is in direct violation of Illinois law, making it a case of wage theft. If workers are scheduled to work, but are sent home, the company must pay them at least 4 hours of wages.

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136 Workers File Class Action Suit, Rally Outside Shuttered Bakery, Demanding Owed Wages

by Arise Chicago

Seventy former workers of Rolf’s Patisserie rallied with community and religious supporters outside their recently-shuttered factory on January 11 announcing the filing of a class-action lawsuit for violations of the WARN Act, a federal worker protection law, and denouncing the theft of their final paychecks by their former employer.

“We just want justice,” said Karen Leyva, an assistant office manager at the company for six years, while standing in the shadow of her former employer. “We demand them to pay us what we worked so hard for.”

Workers, some of whom had devoted over a decade to the company, were shocked to discover via their company’s web site that the plant would be closing. Without warning, they were all terminated immediately, their lives unexpectedly thrown into turmoil just days before Christmas.

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Pacifica misappropriates KPFA workers’ pension money, hires new law firm

KPFA Worker

Two months after KPFA’s union discovered that the station’s parent corporation Pacifica was illegally raiding the 403b pension funds of its union members for as long as 18 months, the network has finally admitted to workers that “during the past few years employee contributions . . . were not deposited into your accounts on a timely basis.”

The pension contributions come from employees’ own earnings. Pacifica had been deducting money from paychecks but not always depositing it in individuals’ 403b accounts, a violation of federal law and a form of wage theft.

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Arise Member Miguel Brito Fights for His Stolen Wages at Albany Park Grocery Store

By Micah Uetricht

If you worked somewhere for 16 years only to find out that you had been paid below the minimum wage the whole time, what would you do? Kick yourself for not knowing the law and pledge not to be duped next time? Or fight for what you are owed according to the law?

Miguel Brito, a member of Arise’s mesa directiva, chose the latter. He worked as a butcher at Doña Mari’s #2 in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago for over a decade and a half; after learning about his rights on the job through his involvement with Arise and his attendance at various workshops, he realized that during those years, he was consistently paid below the minimum wage and was not paid overtime for the many weeks he worked over 40 hours. Arise contacted his former employer about his back wages, offering a settlement of less than 20 percent of the actual money Miguel was owed, according to Arise’s calculations.

A settlement of less than one-fifth of the actual money a worker is owed is quite a generous offer. But, speaking through their lawyer, the store’s owner refused the amount, insisting on a figure that was half of that 20 percent. This figure was not satisfactory to Miguel, and Arise called for a protest outside of Doña Mari’s #2, at 3518 W. Montrose.

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Atlanta Douglass-Debs Dinner Message: Stop Wage Theft

by Milton Tambor

At Atlanta DSA‘s November 6 Douglass Debs Dinner in Atlanta, Kim Bobo, executive director and founder of Interfaith Worker Justice, urged and exhorted the 125 people in attendance to carry out the prophet Malachi’s message and fight those who are defrauding labor of their wages and depriving immigrants of justice. Bobo then graphically described the “crime wave no one talks about”–the billions of dollars stolen from millions of low wage workers in the US every year. Those abuses include paying workers far less than the legal minimum wage, denying workers their rightful overtime and purposely mis-classifying employees as independent contractors.

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Taking On Human Rights Violations in Retail Cleaning

On November 6, cleaning workers and their allies in Minneapolis will lead a March for Justice in Retail Cleaning, with stops at Target, SuperValu and Lunds & Byerly’s, calling on those companies to agree to a code of conduct guaranteeing fair wages and working conditions for the workers who clean their stores.

Wages and working conditions in retail cleaning have plummeted over the last 10 years as retail giants like Target and SuperValu have subcontracted cleaning out to other companies, a process that pits dozens of cleaning companies against each other, each underbidding the other in the mad scramble to win contracts.

“We are tired of the violations of human rights in our workplaces as we suffer the results of this process,” said Mario Colloly, a retail cleaning worker at Cub Foods (a SuperValu chain). “Workers will no longer watch the profits of these corporate giants soar as our wages and working conditions spiral downward.”

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Major Legislation to Combat Wage Theft Introduced Today

Interfaith Worker Justice

Today Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Community Partnership Act, which would authorize the U.S. Department of Labor to establish a competitive grant program to prevent wage theft. The bill would expand the efforts of enforcement agencies and community organizations to educate workers about their rights and the remedies available to them.

A landmark study of low-wage workers conducted by UCLA, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the National Employment Law Project found that 15 percent of workers’ wages are stolen on average each week. The Wage Theft Prevention and Community Partnership Grant Program would provide vitally needed resources to worker centers, legal clinics, and other local groups to educate and assist workers victimized by wage theft.

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