A survey of 4,387 workers in low-wage industries across the three largest U.S. cities – Chicago, Los Angeles and New York – found that the core workplace protections many Americans take for granted are failing significant numbers of workers.
A report issued Sept. 2 and jointly funded by the Ford, Joyce, Haynes and Russell Sage Foundations examines the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, the right to be paid for overtime hours, the right to take meal breaks, access to workers’ compensation when injured and the right to advocate for better working conditions.
“There is no excuse for the disregard of federal labor standards – especially those that are designed to protect the neediest among us,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “As secretary of labor, I am committed to the vigorous enforcement of our laws and will make use of the full weight of my authority to find and prosecute violators.”
She said she especially was troubled by the report’s findings that “employment and labor laws are regularly and systematically violated.” Workers in the United States deserve and need “far better than that,” said Solis, adding, “In fact, it’s precisely why stronger enforcement remains at the top of my agenda.”
Beginning this year and into 2010, Solis is hiring 250 new wage and hour investigators so the Department of Labor (DOL) can continue to effectively monitor wage and hour violations. During the first 6 months of this year, DOL already has recovered more than $82 million in back wages for nearly 107,000 minimum wage workers.
The report “clearly shows we still have a major task before us,” said Solis. “But America’s workers should rest assured that, under my tenure, the Department of Labor will be marked by an emphasis on the protection of their rights. We will not rest until the law is followed by every employer, and each worker is treated and compensated fairly.”