Friday, October 1, 2010

Ground-breaking wage theft legislation introduced in Congress

Wednesday was an exciting day for those of us fighting wage theft in the trenches. After almost two years of organizing by folks like you, the Wage Theft Prevention and Community Partnerships Act was introduced in the House of Representatives.

The bill is exciting because it would establish a competitive grants program for community organizations like workers' centers and legal clinics to partner with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). One thing that workers' centers like WIN's have learned in the fight against wage theft is that we have special knowledge about which companies and industries in our community are committing wage theft. We also have trusting relationships with low-wage workers. Too many times, the USDOL does not have either of these. That knowledge and those relationships can be a huge asset in reaching workers who are most likely to be victims of wage theft.

Plus, even with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis' increase in the number of Wage and Hour investigators who follow up on wage theft claims, there are still only 1,000 investigators to cover the entire country.  A landmark study by the National Employment Law Project finds that two out of three low-wage workers have experienced wage theft. 1,000 investigators is  clearly not enough to serve the two-thirds of workers whose wages are being stolen. Just like police in Memphis and throughout the country have become better equipped to stop crime because of community policing, community partnerships like the ones proposed by this legislation can reduce wage theft.

But this legislation will only be passed if we create a cacophany of voices calling for it in the halls of Congress. You can help by emailing your Representative today and urging him or her to co-sponsor the legislation. We're especially hopeful that if Congressman Cohen hears from enough constituents about this, that he will come on board.

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