Campaign Targets 'Wage Theft'

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 3, 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Campaign Targets 'Wage Theft'


Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

"Wage theft" will be the topic of a Eugene talk tonight by Ramon Ramirez, president of PCUN, the Oregon Farmworkers' Union.

Worker justice organizations use that term to describe the illegal practice of refusing to pay workers all or part of the wages due them.

And it's a significant problem in Oregon - particularly for the state's lowest-paid workers - according to sponsors of the free event at Temple Beth Israel.

It occurs each time employers pay less than the minimum wage, don't pay overtime, steal tips, require employees to work "off the clock" or fail to pay at all, according to the Campaign to Stop Wage Theft, a growing coalition of worker organizations, faith communities and social justice agencies.

One such agency, the Oregon Center for Public Policy, analyzed wage claim data from Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries and found more than 8,500 wage claims totaling more than $24 million between mid-2006 and mid-2012.

But Ramirez and others say that represents only a portion of the state's shortchanged workers.

He pointed to a PCUN study of Marion County farmworkers' wages during the 2009 berry season.

"Ninety percent of the workers reported receiving less than minimum wage for picking strawberries and cranberries," said Ramirez, who was inspired to organize farmworkers after hearing Cesar Chavez speak at his high school in California.

"Lots of people are not reporting it," he said of the under payments. And the problem goes far beyond agricultural work, he added.

"It's gotten so bad that PCUN has begun servicing people outside of farm work," he said. The problem seems to be particularly common in construction jobs such as roofing, painting and drywalling, he said.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who oversees BOLI, agreed that reported cases represent only a portion of the nonpayment problem.

"Jobs are so scarce these days, people are doing everything they can not to rock the boat," he said in a recent interview.

Though state law prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for filing wage and hour complaints, many workers remain intimidated. A Eugene concrete worker who recovered more than $3,600 in unpaid wages through BOLI refused to discuss the case with a reporter, saying he feared the publicity would make it harder for him to find future work.

Meanwhile, a state revenue shortfall forced BOLI to cut its investigative staff in July, meaning the agency will limit its investigations to allegations that employers violated minimum wage, overtime or child labor laws.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Campaign Targets 'Wage Theft'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?