Mary Domer heads the local chapter of the Ladies of Charity and just chaired the national conference held in Milwaukee. She recruited Kim Bobo, Director of Interfaith Workers Justice and author of Wage Theft in America to speak to the assembly. Kim’s presentation reminded us of the disparities of wealth in America and how that wage gap is increasing, in some measure because of wage theft. Among the gems garnered from Kim’s presentation
- If your employer tells you you are an independent contractor, you’re probably not.
- Methods of “contingency employment” are on the increase including ever increasing temporary workers, seasonal workers and permanent “part time” workers.
- Three-quarters of low wage workers don’t get overtime. These include folks who can’t do all the work needed in 40 hours, but who would be fired if they didn’t perform all the work needed, daycare workers who have to stay off the clock and wait for parents to arrive, and “off the clock” work done in set up and clean up. The most egregious examples were McDonalds workers told by their managers to clock out and sit and wait in the car until they were needed when more customers arrived.
Kim noted that many “tip” workers do not receive any of the tips, reminding us to either ask the question about whether the worker would receive a tip paid for by credit card or alternatively to simply pay in cash. She noted an average of $2,600 lost average per year for low wage workers including janitors, drivers, landscapers, care workers.
Despite these negative trends, Kim suggested five ways in which we can all support low wage workers.
- Support campaigns to increase the minimum wage.
- Help with legislation and ordinances on paid sick days (40 million low wage workers have no paid sick days).
- Push Wal-Mart, McDonalds and other employers to increase their wages. (She noted Wal-Mart does pay well in Europe so they have the capability when they are forced to do so. Astoundingly, she noted six members of the Walton family possess a significant portion of the wealth in America.)
- Support legislation to provide a clear paystub to all employees. (Many are being paid by debit cards where they have to actually pay money to their employers to get paid.)
- Honor employers who pay well through “a living wage certification program” in each of our communities.
Through these methods and many more, we can all be men and Ladies of Charity.