New Report: Wage Theft Hurts Health
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New Study Finds Wage Theft Has Multiple Impacts on a Working Person’s Health, Proposes Recommendations
Los Angeles is the wage theft capital of the nation. Working Angelenos are robbed of $26 million each week. It has been reported that wage theft hurts workers, families and responsible businesses. To date, efforts to advocate for a wage theft ordinance focus exclusively on its economic benefits, but the topic has not been viewed through a public health lens.
In June, the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft and City Councilmembers began to push an ordinance that would hold employers accountable for wage theft.
Wage theft affects the daily lives of carwash workers:
“Felipe Villarreal said he was shorted $67,000 from a former job at a Westside carwash that has since been closed. He said he has yet to receive any of the unpaid money, despite winning his claim. The lost money would have made a difference for his children back in Mexico — now 18 and 24, he said.
“All we want is what we worked for,” said Villarreal, who now works as a labor organizer and was one of scores of workers and activists who crowded the steps of City Hall to back the proposal Tuesday.” (Source: LA Times, “L.A. councilmen push for ordinance to crack down on wage theft,” 06/24/14)
Now, a new study entitled Health Impact Assessment of the Proposed Los Angeles Wage Theft Ordinance, by Human Impact Partners, finds that wage theft is linked to poor health and time poverty.
One carwash worker cited in the study stated:
“I’ve had various experiences in the carwash industry. For example, they pay in cash, and from those wages, they deduct taxes, but at the end of the year they don’t give any tax forms. And then we can’t file taxes or get any returns, and they also don’t pay minimum wage.”
From minimum wage violations to illegal deductions, wage theft is a common experience of today’s workforce.
The Los Angeles-based study recommends creating a citywide ordinance to prevent wage theft as a means to improve the health and well being of low-wage workers and their families. The CLEAN Carwash Campaign agrees with HIA’s conclusion and urges City Council to move forward on the current wage theft ordinance to protect hard-working Angelenos.
The study found that wage theft decreases income and keeps workers in poverty.
Wage theft also increases time poverty. People are time poor when they work long hours and would quickly fall into financial poverty if they reduce the number of hours worked. Time poverty results from not having time apart from work, or being financially unable to work fewer hours without increasing the level of poverty or leading the household to fall into financial poverty.
Wage theft perpetuates poor living conditions such as poor housing, food insecurity, and scarce access to other necessities.
There is a strong relationship between wage theft and the workplace environment. The workplace is a key determinant of health because it is where people spend much of their time, and these circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money and power. For example, research shows that low-wage industries are more likely to attract vulnerable groups at higher risk of being exploited through wage theft.
Creating an ordinance to curb wage theft has the potential to improve quality of life for low-wage workers—such as carwasheros—and their families. The study and the CLEAN Carwash Campaign urge Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and worker advocacy groups to work together to combat wage theft.
When this collaboration takes place, workers, families and local businesses will thrive and the quality of life for carwasheros will improve.