Chicago Passes Strong Law Against Wage Theft

The Chicago City Council yesterday adopted a law that will revoke the license of businesses found to engage in wage theft. This addresses a key problem for the city, as a study of Chicago workers “found that over 60 percent of workers are underpaid by more than $1 an hour while 67 percent were not paid their legally required overtime rate.”

In the last decade, wage theft complaint have exploded, increasing 400 percent around the country. Overtime wage theft complaints hit a record high in 2011 and likely exceeded the record again in 2012.

A 2009 report showed that more than two-thirds of low-income employees experienced a wage law violation in just the previous week. “The conventional wisdom has been that to the extent there were violations, it was confined to a few rogue employers or to especially disadvantaged workers, like undocumented immigrants,” said Nik Theodore, an author of the study and a professor of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. “What our study shows is that this is a widespread phenomenon across the low-wage labor market in the United States.”

As Salon’s Josh Eidelson reported, “Recent years have seen increasing traction for campaigns to strengthen wage theft penalties and remedies. Those efforts have also inspired a counter-attack: Last year, Florida Republicans and big businesses pushed a bill that would have overridden local wage theft measures. ” (HT: Ned Resnikoff)