One of the meme’s we’re hearing in the halls and offices of the capitol these days is that it would be unfair to employers to adopt wage theft protections, since workers have won so many gains in Salem in the last few sessions.
It is true that the legislature has recently addressed important, needed issues for working people like increasing the minimum wage or providing paid sick leave. NWJP believes that these were important advances to give workers a chance at a fair, decent family life. But however one feels about those policies, it is wholly wrong to conflate those benefits with the basics of finding ways to be sure that workers can enforce laws protecting their wages. Wage theft is a huge problem in our economy. We know that, since 2006, workers’ claims of unpaid wages to BOLI total $45 million, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, since most workers whose wages are stolen don’t complain to BOLI. Everyone says that this is horrible, that they are against this and it should stop.
But, when faced with proposals to address this problem in a meaningful way, the too common response is that, something should be done, but I just can’t support this particular remedy (whatever the remedy happens to be). And anyway, business has been imposed upon to pay decent wages and to provide sick leave that is mandatory in nearly every other developed country.
What we are talking about here isn’t a massive new social benefit program. It is basic law enforcement. Do we really want to deny the enforcement of law to victims of crime because they got a raise in the paltry wages they are earning?