The District of Columbia can use its economic development efforts to stem the tide of the city’s rising income inequality, but it is failing to do so. Instead, the District’s economic development efforts—including the enormous Wharf project—often support creation of low-wage jobs with minimal benefits, a lost opportunity to reduce inequities. By not including requirements to create high-quality jobs, the District encourages developers to compete for projects and profits by aggressively cutting labor costs—at the expense of workers’ ability to live in the District and support their families.
What happens to San Diegans whose employers steal their wages? This report describes the experience of working people in San Diego who come forward with complaints of minimum-wage violations and other types of wage theft.
- November 30, 2016
- Laura Dresser, Hannah Halbert, and Stephen Herzenberg.
Implementation of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is well underway. This process creates unprecedented opportunity to adopt policies and practices that boost job quality. Connecting workers with the best quality job possible serves job seekers better. More stable work means higher income, longer job tenure, and better predictability for managing the tensions between work and life. But beyond that, WIOA policies for job quality help protect public investments in training by ensuring that those investments are not simply lost in a revolving door of turnover. Policies that focus on better quality jobs help make WIOA resources a reward for employers who are already treating their workers with greater care, rather than subsidizing low-road competitors who may waste the investment. A new report produced by COWS, the Keystone Research Center in Pennsylvania, and Policy Matters Ohio, identifies three WIOA quality standards that can target public training investment where it will have stronger returns.
Our 2012 report Wage Theft in Iowa characterized wage theft as an “invisible epidemic” affecting thousands of low-wage workers in Iowa. Since 2012, numerous media reports, an uptick in worker organizing to recover unpaid wages, and heightened attention from some state and local elected officials have made Iowa’s wage theft problem far more visible. Yet the state’s landscape of lax enforcement remains fundamentally unaltered, and new evidence presented in this report underscores the persistence and scope of the problem.
Our 2012 report used national survey work done by the National Employment Law Project to calculate a baseline for the incidence of wage theft among low-wage workers, and then used Iowa demographic statistics to develop estimates of lost wages and lost tax revenues for our state. Our estimates — $600 million in stolen wages and another $120 million in unpaid sales, income and payroll taxes annually — gave dimension and scale to a problem that, to that point, we understood mostly through a few egregious cases (such as that of Henry’s Turkey Service in Atalissa), anecdotal evidence of wage theft reported by many workers, and close studies of a few industries (such as construction).
This report updates and expands on that work by drawing on two more years of claims and enforcement data from state and national agencies, and new results of a 2014 survey of 300 low-wage workers in Eastern Iowa. These local survey responses provide some of the first direct glimpses we have into the scope and nature of Iowa workers’ experiences with wage theft.