You may have personally experienced or know someone who has experienced wage theft. Wage theft is a very real and frequently occurring problem faced by workers in many workplaces.
Wage theft occurs when an employer (or ex-employer) keeps some or all of the wages you have earned. Bosses have all sorts of tricks and excuses when it comes to stealing wages. For example:
• Flat-out failure/refusal to pay
• Issuing a pay cheque that bounces
• Not paying for training
• Not paying for overtime and/or holidays
• Not keeping records of hours worked or fabricating record of hours worked
• Paying less than minimum wage for job classification
• Stealing tips/gratuities
If you or someone you know has experienced wage theft, you are not alone. According to figures from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, over $150 million in stolen wages were reported between 2001 and 2006. However, just over $100 million in workers’ wages that the Ministry ordered employers to pay went uncollected during this same time period. This is not surprising when you consider that from 2003-2009 there was an annual average conviction rate of 1.74% of all employers who were reported to the Ontario Ministry of Labour for breaking
employment standard laws!
And these are the cases that actually went through the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Thousands more violations and millions more in stolen wages goes unreported. As anyone who has gone to the Ministry can tell you that it is timeconsuming and a potentially expensive process, not exactly an attractive prospect for anyone who works hard to pay their bills. It is very possible that there are hundreds of wage theft occurrences each year in Hamilton alone that go unreported.
So what is a worker to do? Fortunately we have other options that work. In the face of these violations workers across the province and the continent have been organizing and getting back their wages. Workers in the US even organized a National Day of Action Against Wage Theft! By putting direct pressure on the bosses, millions of dollars in unpaid wages have been won. How? Here are two examples.
In Ottawa, Industrial Workers of the World members and community supporters won $2,500 owed to Miguel Yanes Lobaina. Lobaina, who had worked as a dishwasher before being fired, had won a court ruling ordering Hooley’s restaurant to pay him, but it refused to comply. 20 picketers marched in front of its doors, with IWWs holding signs saying, “Pay What’s Owed.” It took less than an hour for the owner to ask for a meeting with the picketers and sign a cheque to pay Lobaina. It didn’t bounce either.
In Toronto, for years the bosses at Amato Pizza had gotten away with stealing workers’ wages. The workers called the Workers Action Center and together they exposed Amato Pizza to the public and called for a boycott. The company ended up fined $300,000. If they can do it elsewhere, we can do it here! That is why Steel City Solidarity has launched a Wage Theft campaign to help workers in Hamilton help themselves get back their unpaid wages. Check out Our Successes to see examples of how we work.
If you are experiencing wage theft, contact us and join us in getting your wages paid! We do not ask for anything but your willingness to stand up and fight back!
STEEL CITY SOLIDARITY
A CUPE 3906 Working Group for Precarious Workers