Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 9 Share on Twitter 1 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/11/18

Wage Theft: To Fight the Crime, Attack the Motive

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     (# of views)   1 comment
Author 15430
Message Sam Pizzigati
Become a Fan
  (2 fans)

From Inequality

- Advertisement -
"Respectable" corporate giants in the United States today are stealing their employees blind. We need to better understand how -- and why.


(Image by YouTube, Channel: Secular Talk)   Details   DMCA

The American economy rests ultimately on trust, a mutual understanding between employers and employees that each side, in the end, will behave honorably. A fair day's wage, as the classic formulation puts it, for a fair day's work.

This covenant gets broken, of course, on a regular basis. The most damaging betrayals? They come when employees put in that fair day's work and don't get paid a full fair day's pay. Labor market analysts today have come to call these betrayals "wage theft," and this thievery is thriving.

- Advertisement -

The employer culprits include the predictable fly-by-night operators we would expect. But the culprits also include, as an alarming new report details, veritable pillars of Corporate America, billion-dollar companies that can clearly afford to honor their side of our core employer-employee bargain.

These corporate pillars are committing their thievery on many fronts. They're not paying employees for work performed "off the clock." They're stiffing workers on overtime and violating minimum wage laws. They're requiring employees to buy particular work clothes and not compensating them for their outlays.

How widespread has this corporate wage theft become? Grand Theft Paycheck, a landmark new report from Good Jobs First and the Jobs with Justice Education Fund, has catalogued over 1,200 lawsuits since the year 2000 won by groups of workers who took their employer to court "to recover the pay they were wrongly denied." Employers in these cases paid out $8.8 billion in penalties.

- Advertisement -

Adding in actions against large employers that regulatory agencies at the federal and state level have taken brings that penalty total up over $18 billion.

And that total just hints at how widespread wage theft has become. Only eight states, Grand Theft Paycheck points out, enforce wage theft and provide data. Many wage theft settlements also remain confidential, and the numbers in the new Grand Theft Paycheck report do not cover wage theft in the temp and employee leasing agencies that so many large corporations now rely on.

The obvious question all these realities raise: What's driving our massive wage thievery? The giant U.S. corporations involved in this theft -- retailers like Walmart, telecoms like AT&T, banks like JPMorgan Chase, insurers like State Farm -- can all easily afford, as Grand Theft Paycheck puts it, "to pay their workers properly." So why aren't they? Why are they behaving so outrageously?

In Grand Theft Paycheck, researchers explore the various reasons why. With a declining union presence in America's workplaces, workers have become more vulnerable. Attacks on "regulation" have left government watchdog agencies woefully underfunded, and America's legal system hasn't kept up with new and often abusive business trends like outsourcing and franchising.

But the biggest reason major corporations are cheating their workers remains more basic: The outrageously generous rewards that have become so commonplace in Corporate America give the executives who run our top corporations an ongoing -- and almost irresistible -- incentive to behave outrageously.

- Advertisement -

To hit the corporate jackpot, to pocket double-digit millions and more, these execs will do most anything. They'll cook their corporate books. They'll shortchange R&D. They'll outsource and downsize. They'll take reckless risks. And, as Grand Theft Paycheck documents, they'll steal from their employees. They'll even build that theft into their business models.

And all this outrageous behavior pays phenomenally well. Among the dozen companies most penalized for wage theft, four compensated their CEOs last year at over $20 million, and only two shelled out under $8 million. Actually realized gains from stock awards, Grand Theft Paycheck adds, often send total CEO compensation many millions of dollars higher than standard executive pay disclosures reveal.

Against these colossal millions, the threat of penalty fines for wage theft hasn't had much of a deterrent effect. Would larger fines make a difference? Would more systematic regulatory oversight reduce levels of wage theft? Would a stronger union presence discourage corporate thievery? Undoubtedly yes, for all of these moves.

Next Page  1  |  2

 

- Advertisement -

Must Read 1   Supported 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Sam Pizzigati Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Veteran labor journalist and Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow Sam Pizzigati co-edits Inequality.org, the Institute's weekly newsletter on our great divides. He also contributes a regular column to OtherWords, the IPS national nonprofit editorial service.

Sam, now retired from the labor movement, spent two decades directing the publishing program at America's largest union, the (more...)
 

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

How to Stop a Tax Plan Rigged for the Rich

Getting Granular on America's Income Distribution

The Flacks for Plutocrats Need a New Analogy

New York, New York, What a Less than Wonderful Town

Billionaires Won't Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk

Trump's "Reform" Tilts Tax Code to Favor the Rich