NEW BEDFORD, MASS. – Has your paycheck ever come up short? Maybe it was missing hours or overtime, or maybe your hourly wage was less than your employer promised. It may be an honest mistake, or it may not be.
A current proposal in Massachusetts would make it easier for officials to investigate claims of wage theft. Supporters of a wage theft bill in Massachusetts made their voices heard this Friday at a mobile rally in and around New Bedford. They say the bill would make it easier for officials to investigate claims of employers refusing to pay employees according to labor laws.
New England Regional Council of Carpenters Representative Daniel Rego says, “It can happen in restaurants. It can happen in healthcare. It can happen in fisheries. It can happen in, which in my case, it's on construction sites.”
Supporters say the problem is especially prevalent among dishonest private contractors bidding on government contracts.
Rego says, “So what's happening on these jobs is unscrupulous contractors are bringing in a lot of immigrant workers who don't have a voice.”
Workers, lawmakers, and labor representatives visited several work sites and temp agencies where they say wage theft has happened.
Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 3 Vice President Jim Pimental says, “The taxpayers are not getting the bang for their buck as well. The workers are being exploited. The owners of these companies are putting all that extra money in their pockets. And responsible contractors are not winning the work.”
Workers shared their stories at a news conference. Some of them said it happens in other industries as well, like Anabel Santiago, who says a retailer she worked for made her work for free.
Santiago says, “[They] insisted that there was a certain time I would have to clock out, but I would continue working after that time. Sometimes we feel ashamed that we let someone take advantage of us in that way, but it's important for us to tell our stories.”
Representatives are expected to vote on the measure this spring.