Report Shows Surge in Wage and Workplace Violations

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

With Labor Day right around the corner, we speak with Annette Bernhardt, one of the authors of a report showing a surge in wage and workplace violations: Confronting the Gloves-Off Economy: America's Broken Labor Standards and How to Fix Them. The report compiled interviews with more than 4000 low-wage workers in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. What they described was an astounding number of violations — from unpaid overtime to employers not paying minimum wage — and an overall lack of enforcement.

Bernhardt is the policy co-director for the advocacy group National Employment Law Project. We also hear from Amy Carroll, an attorney at a community center in Brooklyn, New York: Make the Road New York.  The group represents thousands of workers who have seen workplace violations firsthand.

Guests:

Annette Bernhardt and Amy Carroll

Produced by:

Abbie Fentress Swanson

Comments [2]

Sam from New York

@Patrick They were very clear about laying blame on the Bush administration - ie the Department of Labor has been cut back dramatically, both in funding (and, I should add, in the direction of efforts).

These are appointments made by the executive in charge, therefore the direction given to the agencies changes dramatically.

In New York State, where I was unfortunate enough to be a victim of wage theft, everyone I talked to emphasized how fortunate I was to be working with Governor Spitzer's (D) DoL, instead of the Pataki's (R) appointees.

Spitzer's appointees emphasized that their direction was to enforce the rights of workers, while those who dealt with the Pataki administration say the DoL viewed it's commission as helping employers comply with the law.

This may seem like a semantic difference, but when the DoL has a great deal of discretion on whether or not to even press for back wages, it is anything but. For instance, my employer's first response to the charges was to claim that their employees were "confused about how to use the time clock" (lol) and offer a token sum - $100 for each worker - when we had been robbed of thousands of dollars (I myself was owed over $3000 dollars, and I was not the worst victim). The DoL was well within its authority to accept this settlement - thankfully they did not.

Employers are very responsive to the signals regulatory agencies send, and act accordingly. Therefore, even though this survey was the first of its kind, it is not unreasonable to attribute some blame to the Bush administration.

May. 06 2011 12:48 PM
Patrick Carroll

I was struck by your guest's assertion that the current state of affairs is the fault of the last eight years of the previous administration.

Fine. Chimpy Bushitler MacHalliburton took time out from his Smirky Rodeo Ride Through History to personally ensure that wage and workplace violations could go through the roof.

But. Seconds later, she remarked that her survey was the first of its type, and more work would have to be done to see trends.

Quick question: If it's the first survey of its type, how exactly was she able to project backwards through time to lay blame? Or is this another example of Bush Derangement Syndrome?

Finally, if there weren't quite so many illegal immigrants available willing to work for $0.50/hour under any conditions, might there not be quite so much downward pressure on wages, and quite so many workplace violations. Just wondering.

Sep. 02 2009 01:21 PM

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