|Worker justice network decries wage theft|
Employers owe $20 billion to $50 billion a year to workers who are afraid
to complain because their jobs may be at risk, advocates say.
A Web-only photo courtesy of Peter Griffin.
By Allison Bovell*
July 16, 2009 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)
The deteriorating economy and rapidly increasing unemployment rates
are fueling a hidden crime that robs the lowest paid employees of their
just wages, said the director of a watchdog organization for worker
Employers owe $20 billion to $50 billion a year to workers who are
afraid to complain about illegal withholding of pay because their jobs
may be at risk, said Kim Bobo, director of Interfaith Worker
Justice and author of “Wage Theft in America.”
“Wage Theft in America” is a handbook for faith groups on how to prevent exploitation of America’s working people.
Interfaith Worker Justice is
a network of people of faith that works to improve wages, benefits and
conditions for workers. Their mission is to mobilize all religious
communities in the United States on issues of economic justice,
specifically those surrounding low-wage workers. Interfaith Worker
Justice receives financial support from The United Methodist Church.
Employers might steal wages in several ways, including forcing
employees to work “off the clock,” not paying for overtime, withholding
a final paycheck or refusing to pay at all, according to the
organization. Up to 3 million workers are not being paid minimum wage,
according to Bobo.
Robbing workers of adequate pay infringes on their basic human
rights and dignity, Bobo said. Proverbs 22:22 advises, “Do not exploit
the poor because they are poor.”
The United Methodist Church’s highest policy-making body, the
General Conference, adopted a resolution last year urging the U.S.
Department of Labor to expand investigations of industries that
routinely violate wage-and-hour laws, to partner with workers’ centers
and congregations in ministry with low-wage and immigrant workers and
to develop resources educating workers
about their rights.
Interfaith Workers Justice is drafting legislation, “The Stop Wage
Theft Bill,” that it hopes will be introduced in Congress this year.
The bill will mandate pay stubs for workers, protect workers from
retaliation for filing complaints with government agencies and provide
resources to community organizations to work with the Department of
Labor to eliminate wage theft.
The network has developed a Web site, CanMyBossDoThat, dedicated to ending wage theft.
*Bovell is an intern at the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society. She wrote this story for Faith in Action, the board’s
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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