The “widespread” problem of wage theft in America might be costing U.S. workers more than $50 billion annually, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
EPI researchers came to the $50 billion estimate based on the findings of a separate, 2008 survey of front-line workers in low-wage industries in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. In the three major cities, workers in low-wage industries experienced close to $3 billion in total annual wage theft, which includes paying employees less than the minimum wage and failing to pay for overtime.
“Survey evidence suggests that wage theft is widespread and costs workers billions of dollars a year, a transfer from low-income employees to business owners that worsens income inequality, hurts workers and their families, and damages the sense of fairness and justice that a democracy needs to survive,” the EPI report states. “If these findings in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are generalizable to the rest of the U.S. low-wage workforce of 30 million, wage theft is costing workers more than $50 billion a year.”
“Our study found that right-to-work laws weaken state economies and strain public budgets,” said the report’s co-author Bob Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Right-to-work laws not only sap government revenue in the form of reduced tax receipts, but they also increase government spending in outlays for food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
Chicago fast food workers escalated their fight on Thursday for a $15 hourly wage and union rights by participating in acts of civil disobedience during a nationwide day of strikes. Progress Illinois was there for today's protests.
Real hourly wages fell for just about all U.S. workers, including those with a college degree, between the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, according to an analysis of new wage data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Chicagoans in favor of making earned paid sick days a requirement for private employers in the Windy City delivered 25,000 petition signatures to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office on Thursday in support of the policy.
In March, Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Toni Foulkes (15th) introduced an ordinance — backed by the Earned Sick Time Chicago Coalition and most of the council’s 50 aldermen — that looks to ensure all workers in the city currently without paid sick leave are able to take time off to care for their own illnesses, a sick family member or attend medical appointments. Twenty-four other aldermen have co-sponsored the measure, which is pending in the council’s Committee on Workforce Development and Audit.
“We need to get this passed now because it’s about time,” said Melissa Josephs, director of equal opportunity policy at Women Employed. “Forty-two percent of city [private sector] workers, almost half a million, don’t have any sick time … That’s why we’re dropping off these signatures now to let the mayor know there’s a need.”