Wage theft, when employers do not pay their employee’s the rightfully owed wages, is a pressing issue in this city that affects many low-income workers in all sectors of the workforce. A study conducted in 2008 found that nearly 64% of low-income workers experience wage theft each week. Employers often take advantage of the most vulnerable populations, like individuals that are undocumented or without English proficiency, because there are very few measures to effectively prevent wage theft and exploitation of these groups. For low-wage workers, the effects of wage theft can be disastrous, resulting in late payments that can lead to foreclosure or repossession.
While the issues of wage theft cut across all classes and trades of work, DC Jobs with Justice focuses specifically on addressing the problems that face the day laborer community. In DC alone, statistics indicate that more that 60% of day laborers experience non-payment or underpayment of wages. Day laborers are commonly hired for short-term employment through unofficial negotiations with contractors, only to find that they are not being paid in full for the work they have completed. Often times, with little information about the contractor that hired them, and without proof of the agreed upon wages, day laborers are left with few means of recourse.
In conjunction with our day labor organizing project, Trabajadores Unidos DC (Workers United), DC Jobs with Justice fights to recover wages promised to day laborers and prevent future wage theft. Workers are assisted in confronting the long and complex process of filing their cases with the DC Wage and Hour Office and Small Claims Court, as well as taking more direct steps to win back their wages. DC Jobs with Justice and Trabajadores Unidos managed to secure an agreement the the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Employment Services to create a standard procedure and training for officers to assist in the wage theft recovery process. Additionally, as an anchor organization in the Wage Theft Coalition, DC Jobs with Justice has worked tirelessly to introduce a Wage Theft Prevention Act that would proactively extend additional rights to workers and discourage workplace exploitation and abuse.