If you’re employed as a child care worker, a gas station clerk, a restaurant server, or a security guard, the US Department of Labor says you’re getting ripped off by your employer. The one driving a fancy new car while you’re scraping together enough change for the bus after having to pay your overdue electric bill so your kids would have enough light to do their homework. Yeah. That boss. Or company.
But these are just the top four among many other types of jobs where workers stand the best chance of being taken advantage of, so don’t worry if none of them apply, you may still be in the running.
This has been the case since the dawning of time, but it’s never been worse than it is now. Especially for those deemed as “essential workers” who have been, in many cases all but forced, to expose themselves to possible death since the pandemics start.
Many, to most, lower-income earners are served on silver platters to their vulture-like bosses during hard economic times. Like the times we’re living in. They’re oftentimes made to work off the clock to the benefit of their employer only, or if they do get paid for the extra time, they get stiffed on overtime rates.
In the most outrageous of cases, some workers have been threatened with being fired if they don’t agree to work for free until things get better. But at least they’ll still have a job. Unless they get fired anyway. Life has no guarantees.
A Center for Public Integrity analysis of minimum wage and overtime violations conducted by the Department of Labor concluded that roughly $287 million was stolen from workers in 2019 alone. The agency issued citations to over 8,500 employers who were guilty of ripping off their highly disposable workforce.
The major offenders are not so much privately owned businesses as they are major corporations where there is no personal interaction with their employees. Some of these major players include Circle-K, Halliburton, and Wackenhut. These three thieving companies alone, since 2005, have kept over $22 million that rightfully belonged to their hard-working and faithful employees.
It’s always the lower-income working class who get stung. Danielle Wynn from Florida is one of them. As a $10-an-hour convenience store clerk she was given the ultimatum of working off the clock or getting canned. Ruth Palacios, a janitor living in NYC, was paid less than minimum wage during the height of the pandemic to disinfect a hospital. She desperately needed money and the hospital knew it. They also knew she was from Mexico and had no other options.
Here’s the problem. To a major corporation dealing in billions of cash, a citation from the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division is a minor splash in the bucket of gains and losses. Plus they know that only one in four repeat offenders ever get cited again so they spin the chamber and carry on as usual.
In only 14% of the cases reviewed were any of the offenders ordered to reward cash damages or back pay, proving once again how money and politics do the talking while the working stiffs walking. But wait, there’s more…
Employers can work out a deal with the feds. Since 2005 they’ve squirmed out of paying a total of $20.3 million in back pay. The agency has let in the vicinity of 16,000 employers off the hook so there is very little incentive for any of them to quit stepping on the lifeblood of their companies, their lower-income employees, or peasants if you prefer.
Putting the situation in perspective, Jenn Round with the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers University said, “Some companies are doing a cost-benefit analysis and realize it’s cheaper to violate the law, even if you get caught.”
Will this Robin Hood reversal of the rich stealing from the poor ever end. Some politicians say they’re working on it, but like always, they claim to be collecting data. Here’s a tip for them. The data is there. Talk to Danielle Wynn, or Ruth Palacios, or any of the millions of more low-income workers who keep this country moving day in and day out for next to nothing in wages.
Biden says he’s all about America’s working class. He’s gonna rebuild our backbone. Uh…Where ya’ at Joe? It’s you’re working class on the line…We must have a bad connection…