Last week, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus jumped in with fast-food and retail workers, clergy and community supporters in Milwaukee to speak out against wage theft and to tell Congress to focus on raising the minimum wage and bring better jobs to places in the Midwest.
U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, Keith Ellison and Danny Davis from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and members of the Raise Up Milwaukee campaign took to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to investigate employers that they’ve accused of stealing money from workers. The agency is responsible for policing so-called wage theft.
The organized demonstration is the latest in a countrywide tour and campaign called Raise Up America founded by the nonprofit Progressive Congress. With the fastest job growth (and the lowest paid employees) in the economy, the fast-food industry has consistently come under fire for not providing employees with a “living wage.” According to Moore, the plan is to end the criticism and come up with results.
“For far too long, the needs of low-wage workers have been ignored,” said Moore in a statement. “I am proud to join the Raise Up America campaign to speak out against income inequality and wage theft in Milwaukee and across our nation. As a Member of Congress, proudly representing the Milwaukee area, I will do everything in my power to ensure that these hardworking Americans are earning and receiving fair wages.”
A recent study conducted by the Economic Policies Institute showed that a full-time employed adult with a child in Milwaukee needed to make $50,967 annually ($24. 50 an hour) to meet the bare necessities of a decent living. Wisconsin’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which amounts to a $15,000 annual salary.
According to organizers and laborers, their employers “steal wages” by forcing them to work off the clock, denying them overtime pay and forcing them to use pay cards riddled with fees in order to get paid. Davis feels that the amount of profit made my major corporations, including fast-food chains like McDonald’s, should result in a similar spike for labor.
“Between 1979 and 2012, after accounting for inflation, the productivity of the average American worker increased about 85 percent,” said Davis in a statement. “Over the same period, the inflation-adjusted wage of the median worker rose only about 6 percent, and the value of the minimum wage fell 21 percent.
“As a country, we got richer, but income inequality increased over several decades because of the growing disparity in the distribution of the national income,” continued Davis. “For low-income workers, their standard of living actually decreased.”
Locally, the AmNews reported on the “Fast Food Forward” campaign in New York City, which announced itself after a recent report titled “New York’s Hidden Crime Wave: Wage Theft and NYC’s Fast Food Workers.” The report stated that 36 percent of workers reported being forced to work off the clock, 32 percent of cashiers reported being forced to pay their employer if the register was short, and 30 percent of those who have worked over 40 hours a week said that they didn’t always receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours.