You will regularly hear me argue that the principles of Christianity apply more broadly than a few social issues. I am convinced that one specific area that those principles apply is workplace. As part of their obligation to pursue stewardship, businesses and corporations must treat their workers with basic human dignity within the workplace. Workers cannot be treated as just simply another “cost of production,” rather they are persons made in the image of God worthy of decent and honest treatment.
One application of this principle: working people of Alabama deserve to be paid fairly and equitably. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous corporations continue to steal from their employees by failing to pay them as required by law.” The Economic Policy Foundation, a business-funded think tank, estimated that companies annually steal $19 billion in unpaid overtime.
According to this New York Times article, because of lax enforcement, “far too often the result is unscrupulous employers’ taking advantage of our country’s low-wage workers.”
“This investigation [by the Government Accountability Office] clearly shows that [the Department of] Labor has left thousands of actual victims of wage theft who sought federal government assistance with nowhere to turn,” the report said.
And from a related story from faith-based director, Kim Bobo,
Billions of dollars in wages are being illegally stolen from millions of workers each and every year. The employers range from small neighborhood businesses to some of the nation’s largest employers—Wal-Mart, Tyson, McDonald’s, Target, Pulte Homes, federal, state, and local governments and many more.
Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid all their wages, workers are denied overtime when they should be paid it, or workers aren’t paid at all for work they’ve performed. Wage theft is when an employer violates the law and deprives a worker of legally mandated wages.
Listen to these statistics from the same article:
• 60 percent of nursing homes stole workers’ wages.
• 89 percent of nonmonitored garment factories in Los Angeles and 67 percent of nonmonitored garment factories in New York City stole workers’ wages.
• 25 percent of tomato producers, 35 percent of lettuce producers, 51 percent of cucumber producers, 58 percent of onion producers, and 62 percent of garlic producers hiring farm workers stole workers’ wages.
• 78 percent of restaurants in New Orleans stole workers’ wages.
• Almost half of day laborers, who tend to focus on construction work, have had their wages stolen.
• 100 percent of poultry plants steal workers’ wages.”
This represents billions of dollars not available to struggling families. At a time of increasing income differentials, certainly paying workers their lawful minimums is not too great a burden.
On another side note though related to worker dignity, one anecdote from the article stuck out to me:
Meanwhile, one of our colleagues went to use the bathroom. A worker jumped up to give her a few sections of toilet paper.
So we asked the manager, “What’s the deal on the toilet paper?”
“Oh, I used to provide it, but the workers would steal it, so now they prefer to bring their own.” Right.