Poor people are poor because they don't want to work, right? That's what a lot of Americans believe.
But imagine working 40 hours a week, even putting in overtime, and having nothing to show for it. That's a reality for many of Chicago's workers who experience wage theft--employers circumventing the law by paying under the minimum wage, shorting hours, asking employees to work off the clock or just not paying them at all.
An investigation by Crain's Chicago Business reveals just how pervasive wage theft is in Cook County. Of Cook County's 310,000 low-wage workers, about half of them have experienced wage theft, according to a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago.
And for workers already making low wages, getting less than they're due can have some serious impact--unpaid bills, utility shutoffs, evictions, high-interest loans and poor credit.
More at chicagoreporter.com
Crain's reporter and former Chicago Reporter intern Claire Bushey talked to Jesenya Rodriguez, who accumulated overdraft fees and missed her high school graduation because she couldn't pay her school fees when her employer began skipping pay checks and shorted her $1,200.
"Thanks to them, I couldn't finish high school," Rodriguez said. "Now my credit is totally ruined."
"Among U.S.-born workers, blacks had the highest
violation rates at 35%, compared with 17% of Asians, 12% of Latinos and
1% of whites," Crain's reported.
The article thoroughly documents numerous cases of wage theft in the Chicago metro area and what workers go through when their paychecks are repeatedly short. When even a publication dedicated to business news is willing to report this extensively about people at bottom of the economic spectrum, it's clear that the issue is a serious problem. If you're interested in the plight of Cook County's least fortunate, the article is a must read.
Just a few weeks ago, we reported on a former car wash employee who
stood up against his former boss and demanded he be paid the overtime he
earned. Luis Perez received some of his overdue wages back, but not all
workers are that lucky.
Although many Americans demand that poor folks in this country be more self-reliant, many poor folks might have the "self" part of the equation worked out. But they can't rely on who's supposed to be doling out their hard-earned pay check.