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US Department of Labor Debuts Campaign to Stop Wage Theft

US Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis announced the “We Can Help” campaign last week. Through the campaign, the DOL has committed to helping all US wage-earners learn about their workplace rights and stop wage theft. According to the DOL’s news release, the campaign will focus on reaching all employees, regardless of immigration status, in areas including construction, janitorial work, food services, home health care, and hotel/motel services. Topics addressed will include rights in the workplace and the process of filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL “to recover wages owed.” A variety of Spanish/English public service announcements are being produced and a hotline is being established. At the campaign announcement, Secretary Solis spoke to a crowd of workers and community advocates at the site where President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary Frances Perkins once worked. She said, “the nation’s laws are for the protection of everyone who works in this country. It is appropriate and correct that vulnerable workers receive what the law promises, and that no employer gain a marketplace advantage by using threats or coercion to cheat workers from their rightful wages. I have added more than 250 new field investigators nationwide – an increase of a third – to help in this effort. If you are a worker in America, on this day, we promise you a new beginning and a new partnership to ensure you receive the wages you deserve.” According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations’ (AFL-CIO) blog, the Wage and Hour office, while run by former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, was unsuccessful at minimum wage and overtime law enforcement. A 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows the “division’s failure to act…left thousands of actual victims of wage theft who sought federal government assistance with nowhere to turn.” Furthermore, a 2008 GAO report showed that the Bush administration dropped the number of wage and hour inspectors from 942 to 732 and dropped the number of investigations into employers’ refusal to follow workplace laws from 47,000 to 30,000 between 1997 and 2008.

Sources:

US Department of Labor news release 4/1/10; US Department of Labor public service announcements; American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Blog 4/5/10

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