Oregon Coalition To Stop Wage Theft
VOZ is proud to be a part of the Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft
What is wage theft?
The failure to pay workers the wages owed to them – commonly called wage theft – is an epidemic. While most employers in our communities do right by their workers, too many do not. Being paid less than the minimum wage, being shorted hours, being forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime, or not being paid at all are pervasive practices.
How prevalent is wage theft?
A seminal 2009 study of nearly 4,500 low-wage workers found that more than two-thirds experienced at least one pay-related violation in their previous work week, including a quarter of workers who were paid less than minimum wage, and three-quarters who were not paid overtime wages owed to them. These findings are echoed locally: an Oregon study of nearly 200 farm workers found 90% consistently received less than the minimum wage.
Who does wage theft affect?
Everyone! Although wage theft hits immigrants and communities of color the hardest, it happens across industries, races, and immigration statuses. Wage theft happens in large corporations as well as small businesses. The consequences are severe and widespread.
- Wage theft impacts workers. Bills go unpaid, housing is unstable, and families have less money for food or medical expenses.
- Wage theft impacts local economies. Well-meaning businesses struggle to compete with wage cheats that shave their operating costs by breaking the law. Additionally, the less money wage earners bring home, the less they have to spend at local businesses.
- Wage theft impacts tax payers. Wage theft also robs government budgets of taxes and contributions to unemployment and workers’ compensation systems.
Why don’t current laws protect workers? What can we do?
Workers may not speak up because of fear of retaliation. And when they do, they struggle to find assistance enforcing their rights. Faced with scarce resources, public enforcement cannot keep up. Private enforcement may not be an option due to barriers workers face in finding a lawyer able to take their case. And finally, those that do succeed in securing orders or judgments face an additional hurdle: actually collecting their wages. For example, employers failed to pay almost three-quarters of money the Bureau of Labor and Industries found they owed workers during a recent three-year period. Workers pursuing private remedies experience similar difficulties in collecting.
We have a chance to provide workers with a simple, powerful set of tools that would help level the playing field for workers and law-abiding employers and strengthen our communities and local economies in the bargain.
The Fair Wage Recovery Act
SB 718/HB 3083
Turn rights into reality: Help our workers collect their hard-earned wages!
Wage theft has become a defining trend of today’s labor market. Wage theft is a huge and growing problem for Oregon workers, honest employers, and our communities.
Workers whose employers don’t pay them face serious challenges in enforcing their rights. It should be harder for law-breaking employers to hide and easier for workers to get help and recover their wages. Providing workers with new tools is essential to ensure that legal protections like minimum wage, overtime, and decent working conditions become a reality for all workers in our communities.
This bill will:
Give workers tools to expose employer wrongdoing.
When employers hide behind claims that a worker is an independent contractor or employed by fly-by-night middlemen, don’t give clear paystubs, or offer differing explanations of employment-related disputes, workers are left struggling to prove their rights have been violated. This bill would:
- Make it easier for workers who do the essential functions of a business to show they are employees of that business
- Put teeth behind employers’ obligation to provide accurate and detailed pay stubs
- Require employers to explain in writing why a worker was let go if the worker asks
Reduce barriers so workers can get help and recover the wages they are owed.
Workers face significant challenges in recovering their wages, including finding legal assistance to help them navigate the complicated statutory system and collecting on judgments even after they prove their rights were violated. This bill would:
- Ensure attorney fees provisions do not create barriers to workers standing up to enforce their rights
- Standardize definition of wages to clarify what workers are entitled to receive
- Expand the ability of workers to get a lien for unpaid wages on employers’ property
Please support Oregon’s workers!
The Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft is a broad and growing coalition of organization working to combat the crisis of wage theft in Oregon. It consists of over 35 faith, business, labor, and community organizations, including AFL-CIO; AFSCME; Adelante Mujeres; American Friends Service Committee; Beyond Toxics; CAUSA; Centro Latino Americano; Common Cause; Community Alliance of Lane County; Economic Fairness Oregon; Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; Family Forward Oregon; Human Dignity Coalition of Crook County; Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice; Jewish Federation of Greater Portland; Main Street Alliance of Oregon; Northwest Workers’ Justice Project; Office of Life, Justice & Peace, Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon; Oregon Action; Oregon Center for Christian Voices; Oregon Center for Public Policy; Oregon Thrives; Oregon School Employees Association; Oregon Strong Voice – Southern Oregon Chapter; Oregon Working Families; PCUN; Portland Jobs With Justice; Project REconomy; Rural Organizing Project; SEIU Local 49; SEIU Local 503; Tax Fairness Oregon; Teamsters Local 206; UFCW 555; VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project; and We Are Oregon.
 Annette Berhardt et al., Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities (New York, 2009), available at www.nelp.org/page/-/brokenlaws/BrokenLawsReport2009.pdf
 Northwest Tree Planters and Farmworkers United (PCUN), Report of Wage Survey of Willamette Valley Farmworkers Engaged in Piece-Rate Harvest of Selected Agricultural Products during 2009 (Oregon, 2009), available from PCUN.
 Oregon Center for Public Policy, “Fact Sheet: Employers pay only a fraction of what they owe in wage theft cases.” February 11, 2015, available at http://www.ocpp.org/2015/02/11/fs20150211-employers-pay-fraction-wage-theft/