CTUL Wage Theft Recommendations

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Recommendations (from the Confronting Exploitation: The Face of Low-Wage Work in the Twin Cities Report):

The findings of this report suggest the urgent need for action to intervene in what, for many, are life and death circumstances. To that end, CTUL recommends the following solutions to end wage theft and ensure workers have a voice in the workplace.

Worker Education

In order for workers to be empowered to protect their rights and interests, resources must be dedicated to make know-your-rights trainings and leadership development consistently available. A role historically played by unions, this education infrastructure will need to be dispersed in order to ensure that low-wage workers in largely non-union industries have the tools they need.

In particular, we recommend that:

  • Foundations dedicate significantly more resources towards worker centers and other community-based organizations for education and leadership development to prepare low-wage workers to deal with problems in their workplaces and communities.
  • More unions share their education and leadership resources with non-union workers, and connect non-union workers with their members.
  • The congress and the state legislature adequately resource the many government agencies that are charged with enforcing labor standards (including the United States Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights).
  • The government entities that enforce labor standards provide grants to community organizations with relationships, capacity, and experience working with low-wage workers for the purpose of outreach, education, and frontline enforcement of workers’ rights. This investment will help more effectively reach and build trust with the many low-wage workers of color who may now distrust government officials.

Enforcement with Teeth

In order to encourage employers to take existing labor standards serious, the law must be enforced and the penalties must be significant to the employers. In particular, we recommend the following steps:

  • Business licenses that most employers have to get through the city, state and/or national government should be connected to labor standards, and no company that repeatedly breaks the law should be allowed to do business.
  • The state legislature and other budgeting authorities should adequately fund enforcement agencies so that they can (a) conduct proactive investigations in industries that are known for repeated violations of labor standards and (b) respond swiftly and decisively to complaints of labor violations and of retaliation against workers who raise concerns.
  • The state legislature should pass joint employer liability standards to uphold employer accountability along subcontracting chains. Companies that contract out labor should be accountable for the behavior of their sub-contracted labor when they know or should know that the contract does not include funds sufficient to allow the contractor to comply with all local, state, and federal laws.

Worker Empowerment

Whether in boardrooms or city councils, workers, particularly low-wage workers of color, are systematically excluded from tables where their future work conditions are decided. Workers have crucial expertise and should be included in these deliberations. Therefore we recommend that:

  • Workers should, whenever possible, organize to form unions with established mechanisms for ongoing dialogue with employers through a grievance procedure and through regular contract negotiations.
  • Community organizations and corporations should engage in direct dialogue about the health and well-being of communities that are impacted by the behavior of those corporations. Such dialogue should aim to establish Responsible Contractor Policies that guarantee basic standards of dignity for workers in the supply chain, and Community Benefits Agreements that guarantee the health and well being of the community.
  • Government enforcement agencies should establish Tri-Partite Commissions made up of an equal number of representatives from workers, employers and the community. These bodies would evaluate the impacts of current laws, set guidelines to successfully implement and enforce the current laws, and make recommendations for new laws in cases where workers are not adequately covered.
  • Workers who file complaints regarding labor violations should have the right to direct mediation with their employer regarding the violations. Workers should have the right to bring their choice of representation to the mediation, and representation should allow individuals and/or organizations that are not attorneys.