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Wage Theft in America

"While crowds seeking economic justice occupy Wall Street and other cities, an interfaith movement has been busy winning victories and making allies in the effort to end wage theft. Kim Bobo tells that hope-filled story in her newly revised and expanded version of Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Americans are not Getting Paid and What We Can Do About It.

The book is being released this month, in conjunction with the National Wage Theft Days of Action scheduled for Nov. 17-20.

Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, says few people in media or government were paying attention to "wage theft" in 2008, the year her book was first published. But she says, "A lot of progress has been made since then."

New chapters tell the story of anti-wage theft state and local laws. In the past 18 months alone, legislation has been passed in Texas, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami-Dade County. These efforts were spearheaded by coalitions of interfaith religious leaders, worker advocates, ethical business leaders and worker centers.

Workers have recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars from employers who stole their wages.

"These recovered wages," Bobo says, "are dollars those workers can spend in their communities. Employers who are being forced to pay back taxes are putting money into government coffers, money to pay teachers and fire fighters. And ethical businesses no longer have to compete with those who cheat to get ahead. What could be a better economic stimulus plan than that?"

Another new chapter in Bobo's book tells the story of ethical business leaders like Stan Marek, president and CEO of a family of large building and construction firms operating primarily in Texas. Marek operates in an industry notorious for wage theft. He says it's hard competing against employers who can underbid him because they're stealing from their workers. But he believes wage theft threatens the industry he grew up in. Plus, he says, it's just wrong. "If we care about our workers," Marek says, "we've got to see that folks are paid better."


Kim Bobo, founder and Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, is scheduled to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Workforce Protection this Thursday, Nov. 3.


"Whether failing to pay minimum wage or overtime - or committing outright fraud against the government by misclassifying as 'independent contractors' workers who are clearly employees - they are stealing, says Bobo."


* Wage Theft. The executive summary of Unregulated Work in Chicago.


Comments welcome.


Posted on November 2, 2011

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