December 2015: From Michael’s Desk

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Michael attends the 2016 Legislative Agenda Launch for the Fair Shot Coalition, which has included wage theft among its priorities. (Photo courtesy of Heather Stuart.)

We’re quite excited by the crackling energy around increasing the minimum wage.  We also are delighted that Fair Shot for All—an important coalition of labor and community organizations—has adopted wage theft as one of its three priorities for the 2016 session.

There is a very strong connection between wage theft and raising the minimum wage.  Our client community is struggling to recover from twenty years of declining real wages and the sluggish job recovery in the sectors in which our clients work.  Plus, the disintegration of permanent real jobs into smaller and smaller temp, part-time, contingent work—the “gig” economy—has made it more and more difficult to survive (see the accompanying piece about this). Meanwhile, the distribution of income in the country becomes more distorted.  Low wage Oregonians desperately need a raise.

But when we raise the wage we can only expect that we will see even more theft of wages from the most vulnerable workers. To make a higher wage real, we must give workers the power to claim what they’ve earned.  Providing effective tools to access the legal system or otherwise collect the full measure of wages the law requires has to be a part of what the legislature does, or the promise of a decent minimum wage rate will be a cruel illusion. We’re excited to be finding new energy and partnerships to work on this indispensable part of a fair agenda for 2016.

If you can help out with winning these advances, let us hear from you at coalition@nwjp.org.

Wishing you a safe, warm, and happy holidays,

DMD
Michael Dale
Founder, Executive Director and Senior Attorney, NWJP