Huntington Herald-Dispatch, Logan Banner, Fayette Tribune – On Wednesday, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy released a report on wage theft in West Virginia. Wage theft can be defined in many ways. Some examples are minimum wage violations, overtime violations, illegal deductions, employee misclassification, and tipped minimum wage violations. Read full op-ed.
Working as a union organizer, I have reported wage theft numerous times in the last 10 years. Though I know wage theft is a serious problem, the report really opened my eyes on just how big a problem it is. Over the years I have reported contractors not paying overtime and not paying the federal posted wage rate. The cases I have personally turned in and were prosecuted have probably added up to about $350,000. So, when I read the figures in the report, I was shocked.
At both the federal and state level, workers should be paid what they earn. Nationally, female workers are more likely to experience wage theft. African American workers suffer wage theft three times the rate of white workers. Workers not covered by a union are twice as likely to experience wage theft. That’s unacceptable to me, and I hope it is unacceptable to every West Virginian. What’s more disturbing to me is a worker working for minimum wage or tips is the most common victim of wage theft. Why? Has our state turned its back on workers? Has the American worker been forgotten?
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