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by Spencer Woodman

This article originally appeared in In These Times

Meet Julie A. Su, bane of the deadbeat employer

Employment law investigators handcuffing and hauling exploitative bosses into jail is hardly a common occurrence. Yet California may be changing this.

At around 7 p.m. on April 4, along a drab commercial stretch outside San Diego, a team of four U.S. Marshals and a state labor department investigator named Craig Eastep intercepted and arrested local restaurateur David Dadon as he left his hotel room. Two days earlier, federal agents had arrested Dadon’s son Barry. The pair had formerly co-owned the State Street Grill, which was the subject of a lengthy wage theft investigation by California’s labor department.

A member of California’s new unit of gun-toting officers charged with investigating criminal violations of labor code, Eastep had been examining the Dadon family restaurant for the past year, his investigation revealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged unpaid wages. The father and son were charged with a number of crimes, including grand theft of labor.

(When contacted by In These Times, Barry Dadon’s attorney said that his client maintains that “he never cheated or stole from any employees,” and that his father made the business decisions at the restaurant. David Dadon could not be reached for comment.)

Employment law investigators handcuffing and hauling exploitative bosses into jail is hardly a common occurrence. Yet California may be changing this, thanks largely to the efforts of Julie A. Su, the state’s new labor commissioner. Since Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointed her in 2011, Su has quietly reworked the California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) into what could be the most aggressive and effective state labor law enforcement division in the country.

“Employers who break the law have learned that the chances of getting caught are slim and the costs, if they are caught, are marginal—the cost of doing business,” Su tells In These Times. “It’s my job to change that calculus and we are finding every efficiency possible to maximize the effectiveness of our division.”

Under Su’s management, DLSE has streamlined its administration, cut waste and trained investigators. These efforts multiplied its enforcement capabilities, Su says, allowing it to launch a proactive campaign to tame the state’s widespread violations of employment law. The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) now stands in sharp contrast to other state labor departments across the country, many of which have seen their bud gets shrink while the workforces they police have ballooned, leaving many departments with swelling caseloads and weakened morale.

A top priority for Su’s administration is to stamp out wage theft—the deliberate non-payment of money owed to employees. Last year, Su announced the formation of the Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU), a team of six armed investigators tasked with pursuing exploitative employers. Since then, the division has filed 10 felony wage-theft cases against employers in the state, including the State Street Grill.

In 2012, the DLSE’s Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE) assessed more than five times the amount of owed minimum wages and more than seven times the amount of owed overtime pay than in 2010—the year before Su took office—despite the fact that field enforcement staffing levels increased by less than 5 percent from 2010 to 2012. Both of those totals made 2012 by far the highest volume year ever for DLSE’s investigators.

Su made headlines in January when her investigators fined Quetico, a warehouse operator, $1.3 million for systematically underpaying workers. (The company rejects the charges and has filed an appeal; a hearing is scheduled for September.) Each month since, Su has rolled out high-profile fines against major California companies.

In recent years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has opposed stronger employee protections. Yet Su has won broad support from the state’s major business associations, including the California Chamber—allies that Su identifies as essential to her success. “I believe very strongly that there’s a lot of common ground between what’s good for employers and what’s good for workers,” says Su. “Good employers know that their profitability, stability and long-term success are all tied to the continual well-being of their workers. ”

Su has emphasized to the business community that in the absence of strong enforcement, unscrupulous employers gain an unfair advantage by mistreating workers. This, she says, undercuts upright businesses and creates a structural tendency toward illegal and exploitative business practices.

“We are very supportive of her efforts to create a more level playing field for all of our employers who are trying to comply with the law,” says Jennifer Barrera, a policy advocate at the California Chamber, which is the state’s largest business association. “She does a great job of communicating exactly what she is doing and has created a level of transparency that removes the suspicion that the labor commissioner is coming after anyone and everyone.”

Partially because of the business community’s input, the Bureau of Field Enforcement is taking extra care not to impose inspections on law-abiding businesses. To that end, the division has improved its targeting strategies and is spending extra energy in the initial phase of investigations to make sure a company is worth examining.

“It’s an example of emphasizing quality over quantity,” says Su. That means more pre-inspection work, such as cooperating with labor, community and business groups to identify targets, surveilling businesses and conducting employee interviews off-site (where they can freely speak without fear of retaliation), and using information from wage-theft claims to target employers for broader investigation. The result, says Su, has been an increase in the percentage of employer inspections that lead to citations. In 2012, the department’s ratio of citations to inspections was 80 percent, compared to an average of 48 percent between 2002 and 2010.

Employers often punish employees who share information with authorities during a workplace investigation, which can discourage employees from cooperating and prolong, or even thwart, investigations. To address this, in addition to conducting off-site interviews, Su’s administration cut out several intermediary steps for workers seeking to file retaliation complaints.

In the past, employees who believed they had been retaliated against for cooperating with a BOFE investigation had to bring their complaint to a separate department, rather than the BOFE deputy conducting the investigation. Now, when a worker approaches a BOFE investigator to report retaliation, the investigator works with other DLSE deputies to ensure that the complaint is assigned to a retaliation investigator and dealt with immediately. Su also reworked the department’s complaint forms to include sections where witnesses to retaliation could confidentially describe their workplace experiences without any fear of the information making it back to management.

Su’s effort to rein in management retaliation is one of the numerous steps she’s taken to streamline the division. When asked to describe one example of a key reform that she’d implemented, Su listed nine categories—and various subcategories—of changes she’s made. The point seems clear: There’s nothing simple about reforming a government agency. “It’s been an arduous two years for us,” says Su.

Although Su isn’t an expert on the problems facing other labor departments around the country, she does think her administration’s general approach can be replicated. Her main guiding principle seems to be a relentless critical examination of how things are done. “It’s about never thinking you should continue doing something just because that’s the way it’s been done before,” says Su. “That is one thing I never want to hear.”

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Spencer Woodman is a journalist based in New York. He has written on labor for The Nation and The Guardian. You can follow him on Twitter at @spencerwoodman and reach him via email at Contactspencerwoodman@gmail.com.

More information about Spencer Woodman

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Re-posted from the Employment Justice Center’s blog

DC workers scored some major victories yesterday when the DC Council passed the Wage Theft Prevention Act as part of this year’s District budget. The Act contained unprecedented protections against wage theft, including allowing for damages up to triple the unpaid wages when businesses steal from their employees.

“This is a huge leap forward for DC workers,” said EJC Deputy Director Ari Weisbard. “Without sufficient damages for wage theft violations, there is nothing to deter unscrupulous employers from stealing their workers’ wages and workers receive no compensation for all of the difficulties they experience when they have to wait for months to be paid what they’re owed.”

The new protections include:

  • Increasing the maximum liquidated damages a worker can collect from equal to the wages they’re owed to triple that amount;
  • Allowing workers on DC or federal contracts to rely on Service Contract Act or Davis-Bacon Act wage rates when filing local Wage Payment Act claims;
  • Requiring the Office of Wage-Hour to investigate and apply DC’s Living Wage or federal prevailing rates to covered workers, instead of assuming only the minimum wage will apply;
  • Requiring the Office of Wage- Hour to seek liquidated damages on behalf of workers and not just help recover the wages themselves;
  • Requiring the Office of Wage-Hour to communicate and consult with workers more fully throughout the process of investigating claims and enforcing the law; and
  • Full funding to implement the Workplace Fraud Amendment Act, which was passed last year and protects construction workers from misclassification as independent contractors.

“I’m caught up with overdraft fees from my bank, due to the fact that I was not paid on time and my bills are on auto pay. I have fees from not being able to pay my rent on time,” said Yvonne Johnson, a victim of wage theft, in her testimony at the DOES budget hearing on May 1. The victory was especially welcome to Johnson, who was told by the Office of Wage-Hour that the office was unable to help her collect liquidated damages on her unpaid wages. ”I’m so excited that we finally got heard and we’re finally getting some action. I feel a big relief, that we went and we fought for what we deserve!”

The path for the legislation was paved by big mobilizations and organizing by the DC Wage Theft Coalition, which includes workers, unions, and nonprofit organizations like the Employment Justice Center, DC Jobs with Justice, Our DC, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center-DC.

“We are all victims of wage theft,” said Howard Mayo, a lifelong DC resident and EJC activist. “First the victimized worker, and then the D.C. taxpayers who support those workers that later must rely on the overburdened rolls of human services agencies.”

Though Mayo is pleased with the progress made with the Budget Support Act, he acknowledges that DC still has a long way to go. “Fines, suspensions and the revocation of licenses must eventually be tools available to the Office of Wage Hour,” said Mayo. “Thank you Councilmember Barry for your unwavering support and leadership, and the City Council for taking this important first step.”

Weisbard agrees that despite these extraordinary advances for DC workers, there is still more work to do to protect DC workers from wage theft. “Ultimately, broader reforms of wage and hour laws will be necessary,” said Weisbard. “DC can still do better to deter employers from committing wage theft. We still need stronger administrative processes to ensure that workers have access to fair adjudications of their claims. But today is a day to celebrate what we’ve won and commit to keep fighting for more justice for workers.”

Visit the Employment Justice Center here.

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This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post

By Elizabeth Parisian

If you’ve been on Facebook this week, you’ve probably seen the Chris Rock quote making the rounds:

“I used to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss is trying to say? It’s like, ‘Hey, [if] I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.'”

Now it seems that some minimum wage employers aretrying to pay their workers less — and to even make it legal to do so. It seems unfathomable that anyone would consider the minimum wage — which, for a full-time worker, provides a yearly salary that is thousands of dollars below the poverty line for a family of three or four — to be too high. But in Arizona, Republican legislators are pushing a bill that would allow employers to pay teenagers working part-time a full three dollars per hour less than the state minimum wage, which works out to a mere $4.65 per hour.

And the Florida legislature is considering lowering the state minimum wage for tipped employees by more than half, from the current $4.65 per hour to the federal minimum of $2.13. OSI Partners, the company that owns Outback Steakhouse, supports the legislation. Given the current political discourse on how best to create good jobs and help struggling families, OSI’s involvement is especially noteworthy since the firm is owned by Bain Capital, the company that Mitt Romney co-founded and in which the Republican presidential nominee still has tens of millions invested.

The federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, has been raised only three times over the last 30 years. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation over the last few decades, it would now be $10.55 per hour — arguably still not enough to support a family, but a marked improvement from where it is presently.

Luckily, despite the fact that some Republicans think the minimum wage is still too high for some workers, there are many, many folks who support a substantial wage increase. One of these folks is Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who in March introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $9.80 over two and a half years and peg it to inflation — a move supported by over two-thirds of voters. Hundreds of economists, including several Nobel Prize winners, have spoken out in favor of raising the minimum wage, along with large employers like Costco and business organizations like the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce that recognize that higher wages are good for workers, employers, and the economy.

Unfortunately, this overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage does not extend to most of corporate America, which has a tendency to prize the short-term bottom line above all other considerations, including the ability of its workers to make ends meet. The anti-minimum wage gang will “twist itself into knots rationalizing a corporate-backed agenda,” John Stoehr observes in The American Prospect. And there is no question that those opposed to raising the minimum wage will prey upon our fears of joblessness and the bad economy to try to convince us that the minimum wage needs to stay where it is.

Corporate lobbyists are busy spreading distortions and outright lies in their attempt to hold back minimum wage increases supported by the vast majority of working people. Here are some of the biggest falsehoods that are going around, along with facts you can use to discredit them (with many thanks toraisetheminimumwage.org for providing much of this information):

Myth No. 1: Raising the minimum wage will kill jobs

Facts: Rigorous research carried out over the last two decades has demonstrated that raising the minimum wage does not result in job loss — in fact, it’s been shown to result in increased employment. For example, an analysis of Illinois, which raised its minimum wage in 2004 and 2006, showed that the state experienced more job growth than surrounding states where wages remained at the federal minimum.

And contrary to the claims of corporate America, large companies can easily afford to pay workers an increased wage without suffering losses. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), corporate profits now represent the largest share of GDP — and wages and salaries represent the lowest share — in over half a century.

Myth No. 2: Raising the minimum wage will hurt small businesses

Facts: According to NELP, two-thirds of all minimum wage employees work in companies with at least 100 workers, and half of all minimum wage workers work in companies with over 500 workers. For those small businesses that do employ minimum wage workers, there is good news: a 2006 study found that small businesses experienced higher rates of growth in states where the minimum wage was higher than the federal minimum.

Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, explains it this way:

“The business owners with whom I talk every day believe that, far from hurting their businesses, raising the minimum wage in fact helps small businesses, women workers and the broader economy. Raising the minimum wage reinforces their business strategies, rather than undermining them.”

Myth No. 3: We can’t afford to raise the minimum wage during a recession

Facts: Raising the minimum wage would provide the stimulus we need to speed economic recovery. A 2011 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that every dollar increase for a minimum wage worker results in $2,800 in new consumer spending by his or her household over the following year. Put simply, low wage workers have a desperate need for any increased income and spend it quickly, often on the local level, which provides a huge boost to the economy–as even conservative economists have documented.

There is no doubt that the current federal minimum wage is too low, and that raising it would provide a much needed boost not only to low-wage workers but also to the sluggish economy. Now that election season is in full swing, it’s important to find out where candidates seeking our votes stand on the issue of raising the minimum wage — and to let them know where we, along with the majority of Americans, stand on the issue as well.

- Elizabeth is the Policy Analyst for Stand Up! Chicago

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By Shelly Ruzicka

On the sunny morning of May 17th, over 100 community supporters including Chicago and suburban residents, workers, clergy, and lay leaders traveled to Springfield to educate their legislators on the need to increase the state minimum wage.  The group consisted of individuals from member organizations of Raise Illinois, a coalition made up of non-profit organizations, labor groups, businesses, and religious leaders who understand that increasing the minimum wage will directly benefit working families struggling to pay the bills as well as the Illinois economy.

The day consisted of a rally outside the Capitol building and visits to legislators’ offices.  While not everyone was able to speak to his or her own Representative or Senator, those who did found it productive and empowering.  “I feel I’m coming back from this trip a different person. I learned so much,” said Rev. Myiam Renaud. Knowing each legislator has thousands of constituents, she found it surprising so many coalition members were able to see their representatives without appointments, and valued having the opportunity to share critical information with them.  “When we come with the facts, we have a real opportunity to impact our legislators.  Even one person can make a difference.”

At a time when democracy seems to have been hijacked by corporate and wealthy individual donor spending, many found it refreshing that at the state level, so many legislators were not only open to meet with constituents, but to hold productive discussions that may help influence their votes.  This is why the coalition has worked so hard to mobilize all stakeholders.  It’s a lot harder for legislators to turn a blind eye to the benefits of a minimum wage increase when a diverse community of low-wage workers, small business owners, and religious leaders all have the same rallying cry.

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According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), minimum wage increases can provide an economic boost to our state’s economy by putting more money into the pockets of low-wage earners who will return their earnings directly to the economy by spending in their communities—at grocery stores, gas stations, etc.  The EPI released a study called “The Benefits of Raising Illinois’ Minimum Wage.”  In it, the researchers state, “Economists generally recognize that low-wage workers are more likely than any other income group to spend any extra earnings immediately on basic needs or services that they could not previously afford.  Increasing Illinois’ minimum wage to $10.65 across four years would give an additional $3.8 billion to directly affected families who will, in turn, spend those extra earnings.”  This  $3.8 billion does not include additional spending from those who make just above the minimum wage who would also likely see a wage increase to maintain wage ladders (the “spillover” effect).

In a struggling economy, and in a state with seemingly never-ending budget problems, who can argue with a measure that would boost the Illinois economy and not cost the state a dime?  Especially after the state found a way to give tax breaks to giant corporations like CME Group and Sears.

The most common argument against a minimum wage increase is that it will result in job loss because employers will decrease hours or cut jobs. However, recent research demonstrates that minimum wage increases actually help create jobs. In his testimony to state legislatures, University of Illinois at Chicago research assistant professor Marc Doussard cites multiple sources that conclude that minimum wage increases do not lead to job losses, including a 2010 study in the prestigious Review of Economics and Statistics, and a 2006 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute. The latter provides findings that small businesses in states like Illinois with higher minimum wages than other states have not been hurt. In fact, the study shows that both the number of small businesses and the number of jobs at small businesses actually grew faster in states with higher minimum wages.

The proposed increase (via Senate Bill 1565) would gradually move the Illinois minimum wage from the current $8.25 per hour to $10.65 per hour in 2014.  The brilliance of the proposal is to tie the minimum wage thereafter to inflation, avoiding the need to pass laws for wage increases every few years.  Ten other states currently have similar policies indexing the minimum wage to inflation.

“It may never be equal, but it can be fair,” said Sr. Marlene Schemmel, Arise Chicago Advisory Board member, on the trip back to Chicago.  This was her second trip to Springfield with the Raise Illinois coalition, and likely will not be her last. Like hundreds of faith leaders across the state, she recognizes the need to take action to benefit her state and its lowest paid workers.

If you want to join Rev. Renaud, Sr. Marlene and the hundreds of other clergy and community supporters, but can’t make it to Springfield, sign the voter or faith leader petitions on the Raise Illinois coalition website.  And call your legislators.  While one phone call may not determine how a legislator will vote, not calling guarantees your voice will not be heard.

-Shelly is the Director of Operations at Arise Chicago

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By: Shelly Ruzicka

Yesterday undocumented youth in Chicago led hundreds of families, allies, and religious supporters in a large demonstration protesting the Department of Homeland Security’s “Secure Communities” program, or S-Comm.  Hearings have recently been held across the country after ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Director John Morton stated that the program would be mandatory. 

Not long ago, Illinois joined other states to opt-out of the voluntary program which required local police to fingerprint anyone they stopped and send that information to ICE. Shortly after Governor Quinn signed the bill opting out of S-Comm into law, Morton stated that the program would no longer be voluntary but mandatory, thereby negating the will of states to abandon the program which many say lead to racial profiling and distrust of police.  Communities and county sheriffs have stated that “Secure Communities” has led to a greater disconnect between police and immigrant communities.  People who witness crimes are afraid to go to police out of fear they may be questioned, fingerprinted, and deported.  Women don’t report domestic violence for the same reason.  Workers are afraid to drive to their jobs or to pick up their children from school out of fear of being pulled over for a busted tail light or a cop who has been compelled to target “foreign” looking drivers.

Because of this fear created in communities, 150 organizations representing thousands upon thousands of individuals, have called for the immediate end to the “Secure Communities” program.  Many believe the recent hearings have been an attempt to win over more supporters for the program.  But communities from L.A. to Chicago have responded by saying that officials should not need to hear more stories, but should instead act on the knowledge they already have and immediately end the program.

At yesterday’s hearing, after other testimony was given, Alla, an undocumented young woman took the microphone and announced that she and five other undocumented youth could not in good conscience stay at the hearing, and asked the community members present to follow them out of the building.  They then proceeded to block traffic, risking arrest to demonstrate that by having a minor misdemeanor on their recored, under “Secure Communities” they could risk deportation.

Watch the walk-out and the following civil disobedience here:

 

After actions in several cities, such as this one in Chicago, the Obama Administration just announced a halt on deportations for non-criminal immigrants. While it does not provide a direct pathway to citizenship it will allow the granting of work permits. This is the most major reaction from the administration yet. While some are skeptical of whether this action will be meaningful, others are claiming it as a major victory.  Considering no other such declarations of halting deportations has been taken thus far, it is indeed a victory to be celebrated. But of course the struggle continues to make sure the new plan is implemented.  So celebrate, yes, but stay vigilant.

 

-Shelly is Director of Operations at Arise Chicago

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Rev. Jason Coulter

By Adam Kader

Illinois workers deserve a raise, and that’s exactly what Senate Bill 1565 proposes to do.  A modest proposal, SB 1565 would allow Illinois minimum wage earners to catch up to the minimum wage they earned in 1969.  The “real wage” is the wage adjusted for inflation.  Since 1969, the minimum wage has not risen at the same rate that inflation has.  In other words, today’s minimum wage earner is making less than she was in 1969!

Because the federal minimum wage historically has remained so low, states have had to compensate by raising their own.  Illinois’ rate is at $8.25, higher than the federal rate of $7.25.  However, those of us who earn minimum wage or organize minimum wage workers know, $8.25/hr, or approximately $16,500/yr, is not a wage on which an Illinoisan can live.

Dozens of organizations, as part of the Raise Illinois Coalition, are pushing to correct this problem by supporting SB 1565.  We believe that a minimum wage increase is an important part of a range of  responses needed to improve Illinois’ economy and to pull working people out of poverty.

The bill proposes to raise the minimum wage by 50 cents plus inflation each year, until we reach the historic minimum, roughly calculated to be $10.65 by the year 2014.  If passed, the bill would help Illinois families most in need.  It would benefit mothers and fathers employed in non-union service industries such as restaurants, childcare, janitorial and maintenance, car washes, retail, and dry cleaning.  It would also help workers making just above their minimum wage-earning co-workers, such as “team-leaders” in fast food chains, as their wages also tend to increase when the minimum wage goes up.

The minimum wage increase is necessary to stimulate our economy.  SB 1565 would help businesses, by giving workers more spending power and increasing consumer activity.  When the wealthy earn more, they tend to save or invest their increased earnings, in contrast to low-wage earners who tend to spend.  Minimum wage earners would spend their increase in earnings at the local grocery store, hardware store, and auto mechanic.  The government, desperate for funds, stands to benefit from an increase in minimum wage, as an increase in workers’ earning and spending means an increase in tax revenue.

Illinoisans received annual minimum wage increases for the past five years.  This month marks the first year that Illinois will not see its minimum wage go up.  Now, in the midst of a recession, is the wrong time for us to cut workers’ spending power.  Indeed, a study conducted by the Center for American Progress confirms that “An Increased Minimum Wage is Good Policy Even During Hard Times.”

On June 30th, the Raise Illinois Coalition held a press conference at the Chicago Temple to raise awareness about the importance of this bill.  The public heard from Annette Jones, a home care worker, Bill Flynn, CEO of Paeon Partners, Pam Fox, Owner of Fox Hair, and Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, who described why they support a minimum wage increase.

Religious leaders also spoke in support of the bill: Rev. C.J. Hawking, Pastor at Euclid Avenue Methodist Church and Executive Director of Arise Chicago, Rev. Jason Coulter, Pastor at Ravenswood United Church of Christ and Board Member of Community Renewal Society, and Rev. Richard Mosley, Jr., Pastor at Hemenway United Methodist Church and Board Member of Protestants for the Common Good.

See coverage of the press conference:

The Chicago Citizen – “Coalition Demands Higher Minimum Wage”

Chicago Reporter, “Beep… Illinois Minimum Wage Flatlines”

Gapers Block, “Raise The Minimum Wage?”

In These Times, “Illinoisans Call for Minimum Wage Increase”

La Raza, “No aumento el salario mi­nimo en Illinois”

Progress Illinois, “Number Of The Week: 1969″ 

WJBC The Voice of Central Illinois, “Four years of minimum wage increases end in Illinois”

Watch video of speakers at the press conference:

Living by our values means raising the IL minimum wage – Rev. CJ Hawking

Leaving the Minimum Wage at Current Level is Wrong – Rev. Jason Coulter

Why workers who earn more than the minimum wage should support a wage increase – Adam Kader

Find out more about SB1565 and increasing the minimum wage

SB1565 Factsheet

Raise Illinois’ website

Raise Illinois Facebook page

- Adam is the Worker Center Director at Arise Chicago.  Arise Chicago is a member of the Raise Illinois Coalition.

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By: Shelly Ruzicka

The “Legal Workforce Act” being introduced by House Republicans led by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), and Steve King (R-IA), is at worst, a direct attack on immigrant workers which will actually negatively impact millions of working people across the country, including mostly authorized workers.  At best it is almost comical in its irony and hypocrisy.  At a time when Republicans are crying foul on any federal spending and are pleading for smaller government, this Republican proposal will actually cost the federal government billions to implement and billions more in lost tax revenue.

Considering the current climate of supposed major concern over the deficit, such a proposal should be viewed as shocking and downright incompetent.  What happened to Republicans clamoring to cut down the size of government?  Apparently, when it comes to immigrants, they are ready to spend, spend, spend!

Several groups, including the non-partisan National Immigrant Law Center have provided studies and reports showing the negative impact on all workers in the U.S. were such a system put into place.  They recently issued a summary of their concerns.

In short, some of the biggest issues are the following:

Loss of billions in tax revenue amidst an ongoing economic crisis.

  • The Congressional Budget Office estimated that enforcing an e-verify system would cost the public approximately $17 billion in lost tax revenue over a ten year period due to undocumented workers leaving the tax system and being paid under the table by employers.
  • Additionally, just implementing the program could cost upwards of $23 billion over the next 10 years.

Hundreds of thousands of authorized workers (aka citizens and legal residents) will lose or risk losing their jobs due to a 50% error rate in the system.

Millions of workers, including mostly those who are authorized, will be forced into government bureaucracy and paperwork hell in order to try and save their jobs (with no guarantee of doing so)

  • If E-Verify is required at a federal level, approximately 1.2 million U.S. citizens and work-authorized immigrants would have to contact SSA or DHS or risk losing their jobs.
  • A NILC study found that even the Government Accountability Office recognized this problem, calling any attempt to fix an e-verify error “formidable.”

Millions of people authorized to work will be prevented from gaining employment due to errors that claim they are not authorized

  • Because the proposed bill would require employers to pre-screen applicants, and because of the high error rate in the system, millions of people seeking  employment might not get hired, or would be prevented from receiving a first paycheck.

Considering there are millions of people in the U.S. without jobs, and considering that a majority of the public supports comprehensive immigration reform, the best way to help solve the current crisis and to avoid all the unnecessary headaches the above bill would cause, is two-fold:

Arise Chicago Worker Center members protesting CFOs visiting Chicago

1. Create more jobs by holding corporations accountable, including requiring them to pay their fair share in taxes (versus low to zero tax payment)

2. Enact comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship so that all workers are on a level playing field, driving wages up rather than down, and including more workers in the tax system.

These two tasks will increase tax revenue to help the country out of our economic recession, create jobs, and increase quality of life for all people living in the U.S.

Arise Chicago is part of a broad coalition of local, state, and national organizations concerned about the proposed “Legal Workforce Act”.    If you are troubled by the negative impact on all workers contact your Representatives in the House expressing your concerns.

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