The Progressive States Network released a report Wednesday detailing the battle against wage theft in the states. "State Strategies for Cracking Down on Wage Theft" chronicles the 50 individual fights against the growing practice of not paying
April 19, 2012

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The Progressive States Network released a report Wednesday detailing the battle against wage theft in the states. "State Strategies for Cracking Down on Wage Theft" chronicles the 50 individual fights against the growing practice of not paying workers, particularly low-wage workers, what they have earned.

Working families throughout the country continue to experience a perilous decline in economic security in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Incomes for the bottom 99% remain stagnant, while those of the top 1% have risen to record highs – a picture that is even worse for those in lower-wage brackets. The federal minimum wage has remained the same, while low-wage employment has risen significantly, exposing more workers to ruthless labor practices that proliferate in lower-wage sectors like retail and food service.

Several states are acting to relieve this pressure by strengthening their wage payment laws. Wage theft, or the non-payment or under payment of wages, is a problem affecting millions of workers across the country. Over 60% of low-wage workers suffer wage violations each week. As a result, they lose 15% of their earnings each year, on average. The vast majority of these workers are over the age of twenty-five, and most are supporting at least one child.

Employers who engage in wage theft are not just stealing from hard-working families. By not paying workers what they are owed, dishonest businesses not only place law-abiding employers at a competitive disadvantage. They slow down the economic recovery by depressing consumer spending needed to fuel economic growth and defrauding taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars.

The report is loaded with important details, such as:

  • 64% of low-wage workers experience wage theft each week.
  • 26% are paid under the legal minimum wage.
  • 76% of workers owed overtime go unpaid or underpaid.
  • On average, low-wage workers lose $51/week to wage theft, or $2,634/year.
  • For low-wage workers, that amounts to 15% of their annual income, at average earnings of $17,616/year.

    The report also highlights states that are doing good and bad in terms of battling wage theft and suggests model rules for fighting the problem.

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