wage theft

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Corporate wage theft is on the rise, writes Sam Pizzigati, and the practice is "thriving:"

Offenders include the predictable fly-by-night operators we would expect. But the culprits also include, as an alarming new report details, billion-dollar corporations that can clearly afford to honor their side of our core employer-employee bargain.

These companies are committing their thievery on many fronts. They're not paying employees for work performed "off the clock." They're stiffing workers on overtime and violating minimum wage laws. They're requiring employees to buy particular work clothes and not compensating them for their outlays.

"How widespread has this corporate wage theft become?" Pizzigati asks:

Grand Theft Paycheck, a landmark new study from Good Jobs First and the Jobs with Justice Education Fund, examines over 1,200 lawsuits against wage theft that groups of workers have won since 2000. Employers in these cases paid out a combined $8.8 billion in penalties.

And that total just hints at how widespread wage theft has become. Only eight states currently enforce wage theft regulations and provide data on that enforcement. Many wage theft settlements also remain confidential.

The giant U.S. corporations involved in this theft -- retailers like Walmart, telecoms like AT&T, banks like JPMorgan Chase, insurers like State Farm -- can all easily afford, as Grand Theft Paycheck puts it, "to pay their workers properly." So why don't they?

"The reasons vary," writes Pizzigati:

With a declining union presence in America's workplaces, workers have become more vulnerable. Politically motivated attacks on "regulation," meanwhile, have left many government watchdog agencies woefully underfunded.

But the biggest reason major corporations are cheating their workers remains more basic: The outrageously generous rewards that have become so commonplace in corporate America give the executives who run our top corporations an ongoing -- and almost irresistible -- incentive to behave outrageously.

To hit the corporate jackpot -- to pocket double-digit millions and more -- these execs will do most anything. They'll cook their corporate books. They'll shortchange R&D. They'll outsource and downsize. They'll cut worker pensions. They'll take reckless risks.

And, yes, they'll commit wage theft, often brazenly.

What about laws against this sort of theft?

Against these colossal millions, the threat of penalty fines for wage theft hasn't had much of a deterrent effect. Would larger fines make a difference? Would more systematic regulatory oversight reduce levels of wage theft? Would a stronger union presence discourage corporate thievery? Undoubtedly yes.

But those who run our corporations aren't going to abandon their thieving ways so long as that thievery can pay so well for them personally. Wage theft didn't start soaring in the United States until the late 1970s, the same years that eye-popping CEO pay packages became a standard fixture on the corporate scene.

Corporate execs have had, for nearly five decades now, a powerful incentive to cheat their workers: their own exorbitant pay. Let's end it.

The study "Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers' Wages" (PDF) notes how widespread the problem is--they found "at least one wage theft case for 303 of the Fortune 500 companies," with corresponding penalties:

Among the dozen most penalized corporations, Walmart, with $1.4 billion in total settlements and fines, is the only retailer. Second is FedEx with $502 million.

The addendum by Adam Shah, entitled "Policy Recommendations to Combat Rampant Wage Theft," suggests that we "must build collective power for working people to ensure companies do not come up with new ways to exploit their employees:"

First, federal and state regulators should increase appropriations for wage and hour enforcement. Regulators should also use strategic enforcement and other methods to maximize impact on labor law violators in a way that builds working people's collective power, shifting workplace dynamics so fewer bosses have the ability to underpay. Second, states and localities should use California's anti-wage-theft laws as a guide to reform their own laws and to deal with the Supreme Court's recent decision to give corporations the power to ban private collective wage theft actions. Third, federal and state law must be updated for the modern workplace to ensure corporations that benefit most from wage theft are subject to penalties when caught. Fourth, working people must have the right to challenge the ultimate beneficiaries of the wage theft such as franchisors or outsourcers, not just their immediate employers. Working people organizing formally as labor unions or through more informal methods may be the best means of stopping wage theft

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on July 1, 2018 9:05 AM.

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