Monday, March 20, 2017
Re: Wage Theft Prevention Act and Preemption
Dear Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith,
We are writing you from the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), a low-wage worker-led organization based in the Twin Cities that is fighting for fair wages, fair working conditions, and a voice in the workplace for all workers. Over the past nine years, CTUL partnered with hundreds of low-wage workers to recover over $2 million in unpaid wages and damages in cases of wage theft.
We are writing for two reasons. First, we want to thank you for your leadership in moving the Wage Theft Prevention Act together with CTUL and dozens of community-based organizations and unions across the state of Minnesota. Second, we want are hopeful that you will use your leadership to stop the preemption bill that would take away the right of citizens to influence workplace policies on a local level.
The state of Minnesota faces some of the greatest economic and racial disparities in the country. These disparities are aggravated by the issue of wage theft, which disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color. In a recent survey led by CTUL with low-wage workers of color in the Twin Cities metro area, 50% of the workers reported facing wage theft within the previous year. Not only does this impact hard-working families, it has rippling impacts in the economy as employers avoid paying employment taxes on stolen. If passed, the Wage Theft Prevention Act will be a significant step towards dealing with the economic and racial disparities in the state, ensuring that workers at minimum are paid for the hard work that they do.
The proposed preemption bill would severely deepen the economic and racial disparities in the state, preventing tens of thousands of low-wage communities of color from gaining access to basic workplace benefits and wage increases. Even worse, this bill tramples on basic democratic rights to have a voice in local politics, disproportionately impacting communities of color. Every day our members struggle to win a voice in their workplaces, to be able to win fair wages and benefits. All too often employers refuse to respect workers’ voices and for that reason many of our members have turned to local politics to exercise their voices. In this process workers have won the right to Earned Sick and Safe Time in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and are on a path to winning increased wages. The preemption bill would further marginalize low-income communities of color, taking away their basic democratic right to influence local politics.
CTUL unequivocally opposes any compromise to pass preemption in exchange for passing the Wage Theft Prevention Act. We oppose the compromise not only because preemption would have a significantly negative impact on our members as explained above, but also because preemption would increase the amount of wage theft happening in the community. Wage theft thrives when workers do not have a voice in influencing policies that impact them in their workplaces and communities, because workers are too afraid to stand up for their rights. The preemption bill attempts to take away worker voice.
Thank you once again for your leadership in these issues. If you have any further questions about the impacts of these bills on low-wage communities of color in Minnesota, please feel free to contact us at the email or phone number below.
Brian Merle Payne
Co-Director of CTUL