[act-ma] Wage Theft in Massachusetts and the Failure of the State to Effectively Enforce Its Wage and Hour Laws | Saturday, December 19, 2:00 PM

Center for Marxist Education centermarxisteducation at gmail.com
Mon Dec 14 17:53:54 PST 2020

*Saturday, December 19 | 2:00 – 3:30 PMWage Theft in Massachusetts and the
Failure of the State to Effectively Enforce Its Wage and Hour Laws*
Bill Okerman, Workers' Rights and Immigrants' Rights Activist
*This event will be held on Zoom. Link is provided below. *

Kim Bobo, in her 2009 book *Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of
Americans Are Not Getting Paid—And What We Can Do About It*
<https://thenewpress.com/books/wage-theft-america>, documents how billions
of dollars' worth of wages are stolen from millions of workers in the
United States every year. Bobo has described it as "the crime wave no one
talks about <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn6nr2PviIU>."  That same
year, the National Employment Law Project published a report titled "Broken
Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in
America's Cities
The report documents a 2008 study of low-wage workers
in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles in which researchers estimated that
the total annual wage theft from front-line workers in the three cities
approached $3 billion.

A 2014 report by the Economic Policy Institute
"If these findings in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are
generalizable to the rest of the U.S. lowwage workforce of 30 million,
wage theft is costing workers more than $50 billion a year." The
report calls wage theft in the U.S. an "epidemic." And a 2017 study by the
Economic Policy Institute
that "in the 10 most populous U.S. states . . . 2.4 million workers lose $8
billion annually (an average of $3,300 per year for year-round workers) to
minimum wage violations—nearly a quarter of their earned wages."

Here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Coalition to
Stop Wage Theft <http://stopmasswagetheft.org/> estimates
<http://stopmasswagetheft.org/problem-solution/> that employers steal about
$700 million in wages from about 350,000 low-wage workers each year. And
according to a 2015 report by Community Labor United
<https://www.massclu.org/> titled "Gaming the System: How Employers
Short-Change Workers and Get Away With It
": "In Massachusetts and across the country, employers are subcontracting
and outsourcing their work and distancing themselves from their
responsibilities to their employees. Through practices such as
multi-layered contracting, the use of staffing or temporary employment
firms, franchising, misclassifying employees as independent contractors,
and other means, employers are turning traditionally secure jobs into
low-wage poverty jobs. While sometimes these practices reflect more
efficient ways of producing goods and services, too often they are the
result of explicit employer strategies to evade labor laws and erode worker

In his presentation, Massachusetts-based workers' rights and immigrants'
rights activist Bill Okerman will discuss the serious problem of wage theft
in Massachusetts and tell the story behind how the state has long been
failing to effectively enforce its wage and hour laws. The presentation
will include a discussion of Proposition 22—the California ballot
initiative overwhelmingly approved on November 3 that allows app-based
transportation and delivery companies, such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash,
Instacart, and Postmates, to classify their drivers as "independent
contractors," instead of "employees," and, thereby, exempts these "gig
economy" companies from providing their drivers employee benefits—and its
implications for the battle over the classification of "gig" workers that
is already underway in Massachusetts.

Bill Okerman is a member of the Needham Area Immigration Justice Task Force
<https://www.immigrationneedham.org/>—and the point person for the Task
Force's wage theft initiative
<https://www.immigrationneedham.org/projects/wage-theft/>—and a community
ally of and advisor to the Boston Independent Drivers Guild

*Join Zoom Meeting*

Meeting ID: 881 1439 8027
Passcode: 337068
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