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Clawson reports: "America's workers face a crime epidemic--one in which the criminals are rarely even made to pay back what they've stolen."

Walmart employees protesting low wages. (photo: Joseph Huff-Hannon)
Walmart employees protesting low wages. (photo: Joseph Huff-Hannon)

Wage Theft Outstrips Bank, Gas Station and Convenience Store Robberies

By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos

10 November 13


merica's workers face a crime epidemic-one in which the criminals are rarely even made to pay back what they've stolen. The crime epidemic in question is wage theft:

Gordon Lafer assesses some of the damage:

Fully 64 percent of low-wage workers have some amount of pay stolen out of their paychecks by their employers every week, including 26 percent who are effectively paid less than minimum wage. Fully three-quarters of workers who are due overtime have part or all of their earned overtime wages stolen by their employer. In total, the average low-wage worker loses a stunning $2,634 per year in unpaid wages, representing 15 percent of their earned income.

And enforcement? Forget about it. At the federal level, there's just one agent enforcing wage laws for every 141,000 workers. More than half of the states have cut wage enforcement staff in recent years, and some states have tried to eliminate those positions entirely. For instance,

In 2010, Missouri's labor department collected $200,000 in restitution for minimum-wage violations and $500,000 for prevailing-wage violations, and issued 1,714 citations for child-labor violations. Yet [Republican state House Speaker Steven] Tilley charged that investigators were being "overzealous," particularly in prosecuting complaints of employers cheating on prevailing wages.

For many Republican politicians, crimes committed by employers against workers don't really register as crimes at all in our political environment. And while the Obama administration has cracked down, the back pay it's collected is just a drop in the bucket of what workers have earned that their employers have taken. your social media marketing partner


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+22 # stanhode 2013-11-10 18:25
That is a very nice graph. We should pass around many such socioeconomic plots that clearly indicate the need to get the revolution started.
+30 # Uranus 2013-11-10 20:30
I stopped working 11 years ago as a commercial driver after an employer who didn't issue payroll broke me and destroyed my work history report with DAC Services. No one would hire me. I lost my home. I learned he'd done the same thing to thousands of people.

He used the money to buy expensive commercial real estate. The company is gone now. Although the state and federal prosecutors' offices knew about it, nothing happened to him.

That was then. Now I'm in a fight with a trustee who looted a trust account for around $200,000. The facts couldn't be more clear; yet local, state and federal authorities can't see a crime happened.

The thieves are both right-wing, fundamentalist, authoritarian fanatics, like their enablers in government and law enforcement. Ask the children of Melissa Flores and the parents of Carina Saunders if there is law enforcement in Oklahoma.
+23 # Farafalla 2013-11-10 23:06
This post speaks to the under reported fact that the criminals who steal people's money are typically right wing conservatives. I had a bil collector call me about a terminated contract with a drinking water provider. The company had gone bankrupt but she wanted 360USD for the ceramic bottle dispenser and the wooden stand. I told her to come and get it. She laid invective on me when I said that I was not going to pay her collection agency, American Capital, a penny. She laid into me as a moocher and low life. Yes, she was an extreme right wing fundamentalist hater. Check out how many companies coming after your depleted bank account are from Dixie.
+22 # ghostperson 2013-11-11 01:22
Agricanto: I can match that. I recently (2013) had a security alarm company turn me over to a collection agency for one monthly payment from the year 2008 for a house that was blown down by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

It lowered my credit score for one reporting agency to "weak"--like I care.

I'm old, getting "new" credit is not even on my agenda. I have been with the same insurance company for 40 years without missing a payment or being late and everything I have is insured with them so it won't affect my rates.

I think that some companies are scrambling to churn accounts because the economy is bad for all but the 1%.
+29 # Rick Levy 2013-11-11 01:26
You don't have to be a low wage employee to get screwed out your wages, just a member of the labor force in a locale that's hostile to the working people.

During the 1990's a Republican governor in California managed to get overtime pay rules changed for non-union employees in the private sector such that time-and-a-half began after the 40th hour in a work-week instead of after the 8th hour in a work day. So a worker could be required to work 12 hour days (or more)for example and not get paid a dime in overtime.
+29 # bingers 2013-11-11 06:57
Don't forget Reagan enabling employers to steal their worker's pension funds and to allow pensions to be paid to executives who never paid in a red cent to the funds which were wholly paid for by hourly employees.
+9 # michelle 2013-11-11 15:34
My college student daughter worked over the holiday break at Aaron Brothers and discovered her 'paycheck' was loaded on to a bank debit card. The card was charged a couple of dollars every time she used it. She tried cashing the card out at her credit union but they were not allowed to cash out the card. She discovered at the credit union that if she asked about the balance she was charged an additional fee. The teller warned her to keep her receipts so she didn't have to inquire about the balance. A couple of dollars each time you use your debit card counts up quickly for minimum wage workers. Two dollars is nearly 20 minutes of labor. It was just a holiday job but if she was in workforce and hit with the fees, it could really stress her resources. This form of theft is really insidious. She was told at her place of employment that for a fee Walmart would cash it out. Welcome to America, making the world safe for corporatocracy.

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