November 13, 2008

Millions of Workers Being Denied Billions in Hard-Earned Wages

WASHINGTON, DC – “”American businesses are bilking millions of working Americans out of billions in wages every year,”” said Michael J. Wilson, International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, who appeared at the Department of Labor early this afternoon to discuss wage theft. Conservative estimates place the sum of illegally withheld wages at $20 billion. Millions of Americans are denied overtime, forced to work off the clock, and unjustly docked pay. American workers reasonably expect that the laws governing wages passed by the United States Congress and state legislatures will be respected by their employers. They expect that they shouldn’t have to go to court to collect the paychecks they’ve earned.

Recent history is filled with examples of systematic circumvention of wage and hour law by some of America’s biggest companies:

• The world’s single largest employer, Wal-Mart, faced nearly sixty lawsuits for violating wage and hour regulations in 2006 alone. Among numerous other breaches of state and federal law, Wal-Mart has docked workers’ pay for eating lunch, forced employees to stay at work off the clock, and denied overtime pay to individuals working full shifts seven days a week.

• Agriprocessors, Inc., one of the largest kosher meatpacking plants in the country, illegally charged more than 2,000 workers for required uniforms and safety gear, and withheld final paychecks from dozens of employees.

• Michael Bianco, Inc., a company with significant military contracts, docked workers 15 minutes worth of pay for being just one minute late, docked workers $20 of pay for being in the restroom for longer than two minutes, and required workers to work two consecutive shifts without overtime pay.

“”We’re not talking about mom-and-pop shops forgetting a nickel here and a dime there; some of the nation’s biggest companies have been systematically denying employees their hard-earned wages,”” said Wilson. “”Workers should reasonably be able expect that they won’t need to go to court to collect the paychecks they’ve earned.””