Stiffing Workers on Wages Grows Worse With Recession

Thursday, September 3, 2020
By Noam Scheiber, The New York Times

Fredy Moreno had been working as a house painter for a few weeks in March when he began to suspect that his boss had no intention of paying him. “He told me that he was going to pay me on a certain date, then moved that date,” Mr. Moreno said through an interpreter. “Then he made an excuse — that he’s in the hospital.”

But because the pandemic had just hit and he worried about finding another job in a recession, he decided to keep working. By the time he cut his losses a few weeks later, Mr. Moreno, who lives in the Minneapolis area and has sought help from the worker organizing group CTUL, was owed more than $13,000, according to his estimates. He said he had yet to receive any payment.

Even in the best of times, workers in industries like construction, apparel, food and domestic work can have trouble collecting some or all of the compensation they are due — especially if they are people of color or women, or lack American citizenship or union representation. But during a recession, the problem — known as wage theft — tends to increase significantly.

According to a paper released Thursday by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank, the rate at which workers suffered violations of minimum-wage law increased almost in lock step with the unemployment rate during the last recession. On average, the workers on the receiving end of these violations lost about one-fifth of their hourly wage.

Read the full story from The New York Times

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