Workers’ Rights Board Takes on Wage Theft

Workers, advocates, labor leaders, and community activists packed the basement of First Rising Mt. Zion Baptist Church last Thursday night to examine how “Wage Theft” is impacting local workers. rnrnA board of 10 prominent community leaders, chaired by Rev. Raymond C. Bell of First Rising Mt. Zion Church, heard testimony from day laborers, security officers, ironworkers, and cleaners – all of whom had their hard-earned wages stolen in different ways. rnrn“The problem of stolen wages is very deep and very broad,” said Socorro Garcia, a day laborer and leader of the Union de Trabajadores, who has twice had to fight employers who refused to pay what they owed him. An estimated 60% of day laborers in DC experience non-payment or under-payment of wages. Frustrated by slow action by the DC Office of Wage and Hour, Garcia and others have been using direct action to help recover their rightful pay. Garcia urged other workers to report incidences of wage theft and work together for justice. “I know it is very difficult,” he said, “but we have to have the courage to step up and complain.”rnrnEric Sheptock, a homeless activist, echoed the sentiment, adding that education is important so that all workers know their rights. Last year, Sheptock was working for a cleaning company and being paid $7 per hour. After a friend pointed out that the DC minimum wage is $8.25, Sheptock spoke up and got the DC Office of Wage and Hour to investigate, resulting in an audit of the company and payment of back wages to Sheptock and all his co-workers. rnrnKeith Pugh and Carlene Olobayo, both former...

Frequently Asked Questions about DC’s WRB

What is the Workers’ Rights Board?rnThe Workers’ Rights Board is a board composed of community and religious leaders, academics, prominent members of the community and public officials who support struggles for economic justice through investigations, hearings, press conferences, meetings and other events. rnrnWhy was the Workers’ Rights Board created?rnJobs with Justice originally created Workers’ Rights Boards to combat the lack of an adequate legal framework to support workers’ rights. Our Board in Washington, DC is one of over two dozen Boards across the country. Although it has no legal authority, the Boards can produce real results. rnrnWhat does the Workers’ Rights Board do?rnBesides holding hearings, the Workers’ Rights Board can also support worker struggles by writing supportive letters, issuing reports and press releases, organizing town hall meetings on key issues, and sending delegations of community leaders to talk to management or to public officials. rnrnWhat has the DC Workers’ Rights Board done?rnOur Workers’ Rights Board in DC was formed in the Fall of 2001 to support the efforts of workers at Interpark to unionize. rn In December of 2001, the Board came together again to investigate the effect of September 11 on the tourism and hospitality industry and to call on our public officials to do more to aid workers laid off as a result of a drop in travel and tourism. rn During the summer of 2002, the Board held its third hearing, investigating the exploitation of immigrant workers. The hearing focused on the abuses perpetrated by a local lawn services firm with a contract to maintain the city’s parks, playing fields and recreation areas. Since then, the...