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Cover writes: "The amount of money employers had to pay because they were found guilty of wage theft is nearly three times greater than all the money stolen in robberies, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)."

Fast food workers protest in Chicago. (photo: AP/M. Spencer Green)
Fast food workers protest in Chicago. (photo: AP/M. Spencer Green)


Employers Steal Three Times More From Workers Than All Robberies Combined

By Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress

14 September 14

 

he amount of money employers had to pay because they were found guilty of wage theft is nearly three times greater than all the money stolen in robberies, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

EPI gathered figures of money recovered for victims of wage theft — which occurs when an employer has workers perform tasks off the clock or pay for their own uniforms, violating labor laws — from the Department of Labor, state labor departments, state attorneys general, and research firms. In 2012, $933 million was paid in back wages for wage theft violations, although that figure is an under-count because there were six state departments of labor and five attorneys general the organization couldn’t contact.

Compare that to the less than $350 million stolen in all robberies, including from banks, residences, stores, and on the street in 2012. That’s not just the figure for those that were solved, but for any robbery simply reported to the police.

Even the nearly $1 billion collected is likely an under-count of the problem given that most victims don’t contract lawyers or file complaints. Relying on a study of low-wage workers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, which found that workers were losing nearly $3 billion to wage theft, EPI generalized to the rest of the country and estimated that it’s robbing people of more than $50 billion each year. And even that may be a low figure, given that the three-city study found that two-thirds of workers experienced at least one form of wage theft each week, yet a recent poll of workers nationwide found nearly 90 percent of fast food workers had experienced it.

That $50 billion figure dwarfs the $14 billion taken from victims of robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and car thefts in 2012. That’s less than a third of the cost of wage theft, according to EPI’s estimations.

The workers who aren’t getting the full paychecks they deserve can’t afford to lose that money, given that many victims are in low-wage jobs like fast food and retail. A minimum wage worker who loses just a half hour of a day’s pay would end up losing 10 percent of her yearly earnings when added up, “the difference between paying the rent and utilities or risking eviction and the loss of gas, water, or electric service,” the report notes.

It’s also a problem that seems to be on the rise. The number of cases filed in federal court jumped from about 5,000 in 2008 to nearly 8,000 in 2013 and have grown more than five times the number reported 20 years ago.

Wage theft is illegal under the Federal Labor Standards Act. But clearly it still happens. So various states and cities have enacted ordinances to further crack down on it by giving investigators more resources, making it easier for workers to bring complaints, and penalizing companies found guilty of the practice. EPI suggests at the federal level beefing up investigators, withholding government business from companies found to steal wages, and increasing the penalties. The maximum civil penalty for failing to give workers at least the minimum wage or overtime pay is $1,100.


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+14 # cymricmorty 2014-09-14 17:39
I read things like this and my thoughts turn to angry mobs and long lines of tumbrels loaded with "job creators" on their way to the guillotine.
 
 
+6 # phrixus 2014-09-15 07:53
Quoting cymricmorty:
I read things like this and my thoughts turn to angry mobs and long lines of tumbrels loaded with "job creators" on their way to the guillotine.


It is a rather pleasant thought, isn't it?
 
 
+14 # tomtom 2014-09-14 23:28
Let's reward the employers who voluntarily pay their employees $15.00 an hour, before they're forced to by law. It would be an education to everyone in the community, and an embarrasment to the greedier employers. The public would be encouraged to shop at the businesses that have respect for their employees. They could display a gold star, for the world to see. Watch the changes, this simple, peacefull, proactive effort would créate! Start, you employees with the good bosses, by honoring them with putting up that star.
 
 
0 # VictorG 2014-09-15 05:44
Dear Tomtom: A pleasant wish but a delusion! Doing private business means cheating the people who work for you! A few exceptions can't change the basic pattern. And those good souls who do pay their workers more than they have to almost always lose out, in the end, to the bigger cheaters. That's life, that's the system!
 
 
+9 # Nominae 2014-09-15 05:53
Quoting VictorG:
Dear Tomtom: ..... That's life, that's the system!


What I hear from Tomtom is a call to *Change* The System.

It would not be the first time,
and it is definitely *about* time.
 
 
+2 # AndreM5 2014-09-15 12:13
Nonsense. Home Depot, Costco and Trader Joe's, to name but 3 well-known companies, are super successful while paying their employees rather well with fine benefits. There are many other examples. I would include the US Post Office in the list as well, just delete the poison pill imposed by the lunatic Congress.
 
 
+9 # Citizen Mike 2014-09-15 07:44
Wealth is created from the blood of workers. That is what my father told me, the result of his sweatshop experiences in the 1920s. Still true today. Capitalism is structured to reward evil. The more harm you do the more money you make.
 
 
+7 # Buddha 2014-09-15 09:16
But then these Corporate thieves, through their control of politicians and mass media, will claim that it is poor immigrants who are "taking" prosperity away from Americans. And many still fall for it.
 

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