Happy Labor Day! “More Workers Are Claiming ‘Wage Theft’”

This morning I heard a new anti-teachers union radio commercial on my news radio station, full of out-and-out lies and distortions.

It is most likely a product of charter school corporations, Campbell Brown, et al., and very rich people such as Silicon Valley gazillionaire David F. Welch, who invented and paid for the California anti-tenure lawsuit that won a (temporary, I hope) decision from a state judge.

It’s a crude commercial, also, attempting to engender hysteria and obviously directed at not very sophisticated people (parents of school-age kids?) and also obviously a first shot at a jury that might hear the anti-teacher-tenure lawsuit that these people have announced for New York.

Then I found this, from the New York Times: More Workers Are Claiming ‘Wage Theft’ – NYTimes.com.

This is a bad news/good news sort of article, though, since workers are joining up to sue the companies that have been cheating them. And − can we call this irony? − this particular movement also began in California:

MIRA LOMA, Calif. — Week after week, Guadalupe Rangel worked seven days straight, sometimes 11 hours a day, unloading dining room sets, trampolines, television stands and other imports from Asia that would soon be shipped to Walmart stores.

Even though he often clocked 70 hours a week at the Schneider warehouse here, he was never paid time-and-a-half overtime, he said. And now, having joined a lawsuit involving hundreds of warehouse workers, Mr. Rangel stands to receive more than $20,000 in back pay as part of a recent $21 million legal settlement with Schneider, a national trucking company.

“Sometimes I’d work 60, even 90 days in a row,” said Mr. Rangel, a soft-spoken immigrant from Mexico. “They never paid overtime.”

The lawsuit is part of a flood of recent cases — brought in California and across the nation — that accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips. Worker advocates call these practices “wage theft,” insisting it has become far too prevalent.

Many business groups counter that government officials have drummed up a flurry of wage enforcement actions, largely to score points with union allies. If anything, employers have become more scrupulous in complying with wage laws, the groups say, in response to the much publicized lawsuits about so-called off-the-clock work that were filed against Walmart and other large companies a decade ago.

Here in California, a federal appeals court ruled last week that FedEx had in effect committed wage theft by insisting that its drivers were independent contractors rather than employees. FedEx orders many drivers to work 10 hours a day, but does not pay them overtime, which is required only for employees. FedEx said it planned to appeal.

Julie Su, the state labor commissioner, recently ordered a janitorial company in Fremont to pay $332,675 in back pay and penalties to 41 workers who cleaned 17 supermarkets. She found that the company forced employees to sign blank time sheets, which it then used to record inaccurate, minimal hours of work.

The irony would be complete if David Boies and Theodore Olson were the lawyers for these plaintiffs.

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