Every week in Cook County, $7.3 million dollars is stolen, according to the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. No, it's not a bank heist or even a sticky-fingered politician. It's wage theft--employers stealing money rightly owed to their employees. Thursday was the national day against wage theft, and workers in Chicago celebrated by standing up for one of their own--Luis Perez.
Perez used to be employed at Superior Hand Car Wash, but he says he quit after weeks of being paid below minimum wage and being forced to work overtime without overtime pay. He wasn't alone in being mistreated, he says, but since he no longer works there, he decided to stand up for himself and his former co-workers. It was a pretty surprising action by Arise Chicago with an astounding outcome. Take a look:
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Perez may have gotten some of his overtime pay back, but his former employer, Amer Fakhouri, wasn't too happy about it. He called Perez a liar and a thief. He disputed Perez's claims of getting paid low wages and working extra hours.
"I've been here ten years, and I've never had problems with any of my workers," Fakhouri said.
Despite the disagreement, Perez seemed pleased with the outcome of the negotiations. "I'm very content about how today's action wen," he said. "Thank you to all of my supporters who helped me to recover the wages that were owed to
He encouraged others to speak up to their bosses and demand just practices. "I hope that other workers will do the same as I--to not be intimidated by
the boss; to not remain silent. Because together we are strong."