Designing Worker Protections for Cities and States

Wage theft, insufficient and unpredictable work hours, employer retaliation, and lack of bargaining power are all-too-common realities for low-wage and immigrant workers. Wage theft has become a defining trend of the 21st-century labor market, with wage-and-hour noncompliance rates staggeringly high.

When workers do come forward to enforce their workplace rights, their experiences are often disempowering: many face retaliation by the employer, and claims often languish at public enforcement agencies that are perpetually under-resourced or lack the political will to engage in more aggressive and proactive enforcement.

Millions of workers are involuntarily working one or more part-time jobs, when what they need is stable, predictable, and adequate employment. Fueled by technology, the rise of practices such as “just in time” scheduling contributes to the growth of involuntary part-time work and insufficient and unpredictable work hours. A stunning 40 percent of the U.S. workforce receive their work schedules less than a week in advance.

NELP is at the forefront of designing state and local policy solutions to expand worker protections, raise industry standards across low-wage labor markets, and build robust enforcement systems that translate policy wins into real improvements in workers’ lives.

Winning Wage Justice

In this guide, our goal is to support and build upon the surging grassroots energy around wage theft campaigns in cities and states across the country. Advocates are using high-profile street protests and new organizing strategies to target unscrupulous employers. They are mounting multi-year campaigns to update legal protections and set up new enforcement mechanisms. And they are pushing the issue of wage theft onto the airwaves, educating the public and lawmakers alike about the scale of the problem and how to fight it. In the process, they are creating strong, enduring coalitions of worker centers, unions, legal services groups, policy think tanks, and other low-wage worker advocates.

By providing our allies a concrete menu of innovative policies to strengthen enforcement of minimum wage and overtime laws—as well as strategic guidance on identifying which policies make sense in a given community—our hope is that we help turn the tide and shift the American workplace from wage theft to wage justice.

Read the full report.

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