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Legal system fights against wage theft

Jeff Tyler Aug 18, 2009
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Bill Radke: Everyday, there are about 100,000 day-laborers in this country looking for work. You’ve probably seen them waiting outside a home improvement store. A recent study showed more than half of day-laborers did work in the last two months that they never got paid for. Wage theft is on the rise. Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports the legal system is starting to fight back.


Jeff Tyler: The owner of a Los Angeles construction company was recently convicted on criminal charges for not paying his workers. Officials in New Orleans are also talking about making wage theft a crime. So, who picks up the legal tab for protecting these mostly undocumented laborers?

Natacha Seijas: It’s not going to be taxpayers’ money.

That’s Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas. She’s proposing a new ordinance to fine cheapskate employers, and use the revenue to cover Miami’s legal expenses.

Seijas: So that it’s cost-neutral to the county.

Others see protecting laborers as beneficial to the larger economy. Chris Newman is with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. He says employers who don’t pay workers force competitors to cut costs or risk losing business.

Chris Newman:It’s more difficult for law-abiding employers to compete with unscrupulous employers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department is hiring 250 investigators — increasing its staff by a third — to keep up with complaints about wage theft.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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