Friday, October 30, 2009

The Wild West of Wage Theft

First, please accept my apologies for not posting for a whole month. At Workers Interfaith Network, we've been so busy getting ready for an exciting new statewide collaboration kicking off next week that I let my blogging slide!

You don't want to miss the community hearing on wage theft and hazardous working conditions that are happening across Tennessee next week on Nov. 5 - 7th. We're calling it "Reining in the Wild West Economy: Bringing Back Tennessee's Labor Standards."

Why the reference to the wild west? Because for lots of workers in Memphis and throughout the state, there's fear all around. Fear that they won't be paid for all the work they do. Fear that they'll fall off a scaffold because their contractor hasn't provided a safety harness. Fear that if they complain, they'll be fired. Fear that when they do face wage theft or a job that makes them risk their lives, no one else will have their back.

The state of Tennessee's workplaces reminds us of the wild west because there's not many consequences for employers who cheat workers out of their pay and refuse to keep workers safe. Laws that protect workers rights in our state are weak. At both the federal and state levels, there's not enough investigators at government agencies to follow up on all the safety and wage complaints that workers file. And government agencies need to do a better job at cooperating with community organizations who have earned the trust of low-wage workers.

That's why WIN helped form the Tennessee Worker Justice Network, a new coalition of worker rights groups across the state. Together, we'll be campaigning to get the Tennesseee legislature and the Tennessee Department of Labor to do more to protect worker rights.

The first step is a series of community hearings next week. The Memphis hearing will be held Saturday, Nov. 7th at 1:00 p.m. at Gifts of Life Ministries, 1542 Jackson Ave. The Knoxville hearing in on Thursday Nov. 5th and the Nashville hearing is on Friday Nov. 6th (find details on all three events on our website.)

You'll hear first hand testimony about wage theft and hazardous working conditions from workers, union leaders, a pastor, and an attorney. You'll also learn what we'll be calling on our government agencies and the legislature to do specifically to uphold workers rights. And, most importantly, you'll learn how you can make a difference for workers who are facing a wild west economy.

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