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Taking A Bigger Bite Out of Wage Theft In the Garden State

Thursday, July 17, 2014   (0 Comments)
Share | 7/17/2014


Local ordinances in New Brunswick and Princeton, as well as lack of state law allow for municipalities to refuse renewing the license of businesses for wage theft. The businesses that have been found guilty either in court or by the state Department of Labor of wage theft, or not paying for all hours worked, not paying at least the minimum wage, or not paying overtime are at risk. Princeton and New Brunswick are attempting to crack down on employers who illegally withhold wages from workers, and activists say these local ordinances can be a model for the state. The local ordinances were spearheaded by New Labor, which organizes low-wage workers in New Brunswick, Newark, and Lakewood, and the New Brunswick-based Unity Square community group. The organizations conducted a survey in 2013 of households in low-wage neighborhoods in New Brunswick and found that one in six reported being the victim of wage theft during the previous two years, with 85 percent saying they were unable to reclaim lost wages.


New Labor says it recovered about $240,000 in unpaid wages in 2013, about $60,000 of it owed to workers in New Brunswick. That figure, the organization says, is a fraction of the wages lost throughout the state.


The state Chamber of Commerce opposes the local ordinances, because it believes they would create a patchwork of rules that could damage companies that do business in more than one community. It prefers a statewide standard, but has not taken a position on the state bill A1317 that would make it easier for workers to file wage-theft claims and would increase penalties on those convicted of wage theft. Chamber officials want to see “empirical data” demonstrating that wage theft is a problem and to include businesses in the discussion about a solution.


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