Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) today introduced H.R. 6268, the Wage Theft Prevention and Community Partnership Act, which authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor to establish a competitive grant program to prevent wage theft. The bill expands the efforts of enforcement agencies and community organizations to educate workers of their rights and remedies available to them.
Wage theft is the pervasive and illegal practice of not paying workers for all of their work. It includes violations of minimum wage laws; not paying time and a half overtime pay; forcing workers to work off the clock; workers not receiving their final paychecks; misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime (as well as employers' share of FICA tax); and not paying workers at all.
The Wage Theft Prevention and Community Partnership Grant Program will provide vitally needed resources to worker centers, legal clinics, and other local groups to educate and assist workers who find themselves a victim of wage theft.
"Wage theft is rampant across the United States and leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to economic insecurity," Hare said, "The escalation of this despicable practice is deserving of Congressional action and I am proud to stand up for American workers
. Wage theft not only hurts our workers but also good employers who play by the rules and are put at a competitive disadvantage. As we all grapple with the challenge of reducing our deficit, wage theft is only making matters worse, depriving the U.S. treasury of owed tax dollars."
"We are thrilled with Rep. Hare's leadership in battling the scourge of wage theft," said Ted Smukler, Director of Public Policy for Interfaith Worker Justice. "Worker centers and local labor unions know which industries and employers routinely steal wages. In partnership with the reinvigorated Department of Labor under the leadership of Hilda Solis, we can strike a major blow against this crime wave."
"Even with the welcome increases Secretary Solis has implemented, there remain only 1000 Wage and Hour investigators to protect 135 million workers across the country," said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice and the author of Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid--And What We Can Do About It. "Clearly the DOL can't educate and protect 135 million workers all by itself."
"There's a vibrant network of worker centers and legal clinics on the ground level helping to fill in the gaps, but they are woefully under-resourced," said Dianne Enriquez, who coordinates a national network of worker centers affiliated with Interfaith Worker Justice.
Hare has been a leading advocate for workers rights in Congress. He has introduced bills on workplace safety, workers compensation, and fair trade.