Every year for two weeks between late August and early September, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, home to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, is transformed into a glitzy playground for the U.S. Open. Tickets to tennis matches range between $93 to $8,807, and fans sip cold $22 Honey Deuce cocktails. The median income of U.S. Open attendees is about $182,000. But that glamor does not extend to the workers who keep the U.S. Open running. On Tuesday, 71-year-old Maria, her sister Luz, and members of New Immigrant Community Empowerment rallied in the shadow of the U.S. Open tennis arena to demand that they receive the wages that were stolen from them.
In Brampton, Ontario, a small team of young organizers has begun taking on the businesses that exploit them, one case at a time. The Naujawan Support Network, a collective of international students and migrant workers from Punjab, India, has won back more than $200,000 Canadian ($154,000 U.S.) in stolen wages in just over a year. “We started a year ago because we observed that there was an increase in suicides among international students,” said Simran Dhunna, one of the founding members of NSN. “Every week we would see GoFundMes raising funds to cover the costs of sending the corpse of a young worker back home. A big reason behind it was the exploitation people faced.” Over 30 percent of international students in Canada come from India, and while enrollment of Indian students in Canada has increased by nearly 200 percent over the last five years, many are struggling.
A stunning 24% of workers in the temp industry say they have had their wages stolen from them by their employers, according to a survey, released Feb. 3, that examines cycles of poverty and precarity for the industry’s disproportionately Black and Brown workers. The findings are based on surveys carried out by seven worker advocacy groups, including the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and Temp Worker Justice, across the country. In the study, 1,337 temp workers in 47 states answered questions about pay, safety, job mobility, workplace discrimination and employer retaliation. Temporary staff, or temp workers, are hired by staffing agencies to work at a worksite run by a host employer. They typically do the same jobs as their direct-hire counterparts, but often receive less pay and few to none of the same benefits, according to the report.
One of the world’s largest trucking companies, XPO Logistics, agreed Tuesday to pay $30 million to settle class-action lawsuits filed by hundreds of drivers who said they earned less than minimum wage delivering goods for major retailers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The combined settlements, approved by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, addressed allegations that two XPO subsidiaries, XPO Logistics Cartage in Commerce and San Diego and XPO Port Service in Rancho Dominguez, paid drivers less-than-legal wages, failed to pay them for missed meal and rest periods, and failed to reimburse them for business expenses or for waiting-time penalties. The settlements amounted to a major victory for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which applauded the lawsuits as part of a decades-long effort to organize the twin ports’ more than 13,000 drivers.
Already battered by long shifts and high infection rates, essential workers struggling through the pandemic face another hazard of hard times: employers who steal their wages. When a recession hits, U.S. companies are more likely to stiff their lowest-wage workers. These businesses often pay less than the minimum wage, make employees work off the clock, or refuse to pay overtime rates. In the most egregious cases, bosses don’t pay their employees at all. Companies that hire child care workers, gas station clerks, restaurant servers and security guards are among the businesses most likely to get caught cheating their employees, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of minimum wage and overtime violations from the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2019 alone, the agency cited about 8,500 employers for taking about $287 million from workers.
Amazon will pay more than $61.7 million to Flex drivers from whom it withheld the full amount of customer tips to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation. The settlement comes nearly two years after the Los Angeles Times first exposed that Amazon was dipping into customer tips to cover the base pay guaranteed to Flex drivers, who deliver Amazon Fresh, Prime Now and other orders. The money will reimburse Flex drivers whose tips Amazon withheld over the last 2½ years, according to the FTC. Until August 2019, Amazon promised Flex drivers a guaranteed minimum base pay for each order, which the e-commerce company said included 100% of customer tips.
For more than five weeks now, coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky have been camped out on railroad tracks, blocking a train loaded with coal, to demand that their bankrupt employer pay them their owed wages. Their story highlights the rampant nature of wage theft and the need to address it, along with retaliation, or the fear of retaliation, that keep millions of other workers silent. Wage theft refers to the countless ways in which employers fail to comply with workers’ most basic pay protections. It includes, for example, an employer’s failure to pay the minimum wage or overtime, an employer’s refusal to pay a worker for all hours worked, asking workers to work off the clock, employee misclassification, illegal deductions, and stealing tips.
In order to get to the warehouse in Spokane Valley on time, she'd wake up around 5 or 6 am in her home in Kellogg, Idaho, where she lived with her mom and brother. She'd work all day, barely stopping to eat. Sometimes, she'd stay until 11 at night, knowing that she'd have to drive back in the morning, or that she'd get a call at 2 am from a driver who needed a problem solved. She says she easily worked 90 to 120 hours per week. Yet she was only paid for 40 hours a week, at $11 an hour. Other drivers for Diamond Freight, based in Yakima, had similar complaints. They were paid a flat rate of $110 per day, yet they were required to work more than 40 hours per week with no overtime pay, as mandated by state and federal law. "They were like, we're not paying you anything over 40 hours. Nobody's worth it," Thomas says. "But the job has to get done."
By Dave Jamieson for The Huffington Post - WASHINGTON ― Companies that commit wage theft and put their workers in harm’s way just received a favor from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday repealing a regulation that had encouraged federal contractors to follow labor laws. Under the Obama-era rule, companies with an egregious record of violating wage and safety laws would lose their government contracts if they didn’t come into compliance. The idea behind the rule was to make sure unscrupulous employers didn’t receive taxpayer dollars. But Republicans in Congress thought the rule was too punitive and unfair to businesses...
By Staff of Asian American Press - LOS ANGELES (March 18, 2016) — A diverse crowd of workers, advocates and journalists gathered at the UCLA Labor Center to celebrate a class action victory for more than 200 employees of Chinese Daily News. After more than a decade of hard fought litigation, they obtained a $7.8 million settlement against one of the leading Chinese language newspapers in the country. This class action victory represents one of the largest wage justice settlements in Asian American history.
By Phil Mattera for Dirt Diggers Digest. The ongoing corporate crime wave showed no signs of abating in 2015. BP paid a record $20 billion to settle the remaining civil charges relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster (on top of the $4 billion in previous criminal penalties), and Volkswagen is facing perhaps even greater liability in connection with its scheme to evade emission standards. Other automakers and suppliers were hit with large penalties for safety violations, including a $900 million fine (and deferred criminal prosecution) for General Motors, a record civil penalty of $200 million for Japanese airbag maker Takata, penalties of $105 million and $70 million for Fiat Chrysler, and $70 million for Honda. Major banks continued to pay large penalties to resolve a variety of legal entanglements. Five banks (Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS) had to pay a total of $2.5 billion to the Justice Department and $1.8 billion to the Federal Reserve in connection with charges that they conspired to manipulate foreign exchange markets.
But my experience is just one example of the situation for millions of restaurant workers in America today. All of America’s burglars, convenience store robbers, carjackers, muggers, and bank robbers combined don’t steal even half as much money as America’s top restaurant chains steal from their workers in a given year. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. Department of Labor had to recover $280 million in wages held by employers in 2012. That same year, the Department of Justice said the total amount of money stolen in robberies was $139 million. But since criminal restaurant chain executives aren’t being carted off to jail for their acts of robbery, restaurant workers will shut down their businesses by any means necessary this Thursday – including committing acts of civil disobedience.
For workers stuck on the bottom rung, living on poverty wages is hard enough. But many also are victims of wage theft, a catch-all term for payroll abuses that cheat workers of income they are supposedly guaranteed by law. Over the last few years employers ranging from baseball’s San Francisco Giants to Subway franchises to Farmers Insurance have been cited for wage violations. More often, though, wage abuses are not reported by victims or punished by authorities despite being routine in some low-wage industries. “If you steal from your employer, you’re going to be hauled out of the workplace in handcuffs,” said Kim Bobo, a Chicago workers rights advocate and author. “But if your employer steals from you, you’ll be lucky to get your money back. Victims typically are low wage, low-skilled workers desperate to hang on to their jobs. Frequently, they are immigrants—the most vulnerable and least apt to speak up. “They know that if they complain, there’s always someone else out there who is willing to take their job,” said Maria Echaveste, a former labor official during the Clinton administration who is now at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. While heart-breaking for employees, wage theft also robs federal and state treasuries of many billions of dollars in taxes, and puts employers who play by the rules at a serious competitive disadvantage.
Wage theft is a far bigger problem than bank robberies, convenience store robberies, street and highway robberies, and gas station robberies combined. Employers steal billions of dollars from their employees each year by working them off the clock, by failing to pay the minimum wage, or by cheating them of overtime pay they have a right to receive. Survey research shows that well over two-thirds of low-wage workers have been the victims of wage theft, but the governmental resources to help them recover their lost wages are scant and largely ineffective. Few local governments have any resources or staff to combat wage theft, and several states have closed down or so severely cut back their labor departments that workers are left mostly unprotected and vulnerable to exploitation. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is the one agency that brings substantial resources to the effort to prevent and remedy wage theft, but its total staff of wage and hour investigators, about 1100 in all, is responsible for securing compliance from more than seven million employers.
Fast food strikers in Detroit rally on Tuesday in support of a Michigan-based class action suit filed this week alleging systematic wage theft by McDonalds. The protest is part of a nationwide day of action raising awareness about the problem of wage theft. Community supporter at St. Louis rally. "I was living in my car in a McDonalds parking lot - the McDonalds where I work", said a disabled worker. "My two children were staying with my parents, but I could barely afford to keep them fed. And the whole time, I believe my boss was robbing me." Workers from NYC-based Fast Food Forward make a citizen's arrest of Ronald McDonald for alleged wage theft. In a 2013 poll, over 80 percent of New York City fast food workers reported being victims of wage theft.