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Published On: Mon, Jun 17th, 2019

The most massive wage theft case; US union seeks $100 million

Unpaid wages or wage theft is a very normal thing these days. It is surprisingly found in both the developing as well as in the developed countries all across the globe. Sometimes wage theft can be seen occurring cross-country as well. The victims of wage theft are not only permanent employees but in some cases, part-time workers as well as freelancers. Thankfully, now there is much awareness generated around this issue and groups of people, especially different workers’ unions are working for this very cause. Such is the case of an American union, which is now very close to winning more than $100 million from a call center thus making it one of the biggest wage theft cases, which involves federal contractors.  It is not just confined to one call center but more and more is practicing wage theft. 5 call centers were found which were doing this.

The labor community is now going through different cases, which were filed against the federal contractor, General Dynamics, which was running one of the biggest call center franchise in the US with offices all over the country. Wage theft is one of their lawbreaking practices.

They have done a lot of wage theft and not just with one company. Many companies have been involved with them. GDIT and Vangent are two of those companies. They have had a history of wage theft since 2007, and in 2011, they agreed to pay back $4.2 million. They have a history of many wrongdoings. They have been charged for illegal threats, surveillance and they have also interrogated workers. Wage theft is just one of them.

The cases have been filed by a lot of different current and previous employees who have been working in this company since 2013. This case has served as a means to bring the entire labor workforce together as a community.

Furthermore, CWA (Communications Workers of America) argued that the workers are not being paid the minimum wage as they have been “misclassified” in lower paying job titles and that there is a criterion set under the precedent of the law which states that minimum wages have been set for federal contractors based on job duties and location. The whole case is focused on the fact that the employees have not been classified justly, and this leads to close to no increments in their pay scale.

The case was officially filed against the company in 2018 November, and the workers say that nothing has changed so far except the name of the company. The wages being paid, the work condition, the theft is still the same, and instead of things getting better, they have rather been going downhill while the name of the company has been changed already.

What is wage theft?

Wage theft is defined as the amount unpaid to the workers, whether while they are doing the overtime or misclassifying the workers for payments after the work has been done. It also includes the denial of benefits that are owned by a worker as well as illegal deduction in pay. Wage theft is also denying meal breaks as well as illegally confiscating tips from the workers. It can be seen that it severely affects the working class the most. Also listing the employee as an independent contractor is a part of wage theft as the worker is given less salary.

photo 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Why it matters?

Wage theft affects mostly the people who are from middle to low-level income households, and stealing from them is an all-time low. They are already struggling to make ends meet and adding on to their problems is just a precursor to economic disparity in society. Wage theft is a classic example of how the rich keep on getting richer, and the poor keep on getting poorer. Wage theft does not affect the bad employers it affects all the families of the employees on a much larger and drastic scale.

What to do in the case of wage theft?

Many things can be done when it comes to wage theft.

  • Supporting strong government enforcement
  • Raising the salary for the employees/ increasing the cost to employers for going against the laws.

Most of the victims of wage theft are low-income poor civilians. These people need every penny, and it is hard for them when it comes to paying bills and fees. So their rights should be protected. The government should make sure that the employers should be held responsible and keep in check that the employer gives back the wages.

Complaints being filed by the employees

One of the employees who has been working with the company since when it first opened in 2013 says that after working for so long, she has yet to see any clear changes happening.

She mentioned that she had noticed this for a long time that even when the company was growing; the employees were not being paid what they deserved. After the company has been in operation for many years and has over 2,000 people working for the company, the base employees are still only making around $10 per hour which is just not enough and unfair. Employees are just being exploited and should be paid way more as can be seen in other similar companies.

Brooks, a worker said that she had started working with the call center in 2013 when it originally opened, and after 5 years of work, she is still earning the same amount, which she was 5 years ago and is stuck on $16. 83.

She also claimed many problems in the office where she was working and that the environment was not fit. She also mentioned that there were bed bugs in her instructions classroom.

One of the workers Flick, said that even though she likes helping other people and treating them with care because they are important for others, but GDIT does not give the same type of care. They do not care how the workers’ services are who the worker is. She further feels that it is downright wrong of them. The flick also said that the company claimed to be paying the rate set by the federal government, hearing this the employees’ union has contacted the federal government to take a look into this matter.

One employee at GDIT has claimed that despite two rounds of extensive training, the pay he receives is still below the minimum. They further went on to say that GDIT must be held accountable for this by the federal government.

Different workers also claimed that their washrooms are not being thoroughly cleaned or maintained, and they are not all the time stocked. They have suffered through many different problems, and the wages are just not taking a rise.  They believe that if they are giving their best on the job, they at least deserve a decent wage and do not go without the basics requirements.

The management might be earning good, but the real workers are working under them are facing many problems.

This shows that the ones in control and those who have authority are the ones who are pocketing all the profit made by the company and giving only a bit to the employees who have put in long hours. This is clear extortion, and the ones who are behind it should face the consequences. This is why employees have rallied together to file the lawsuit against the company for wage theft.

Legal actions

There were not many legal actions taken against the company in the beginning, but this has raised a lot of problems now, which is why people are now taking it seriously.

The labor community, which was at first not very much bothered by this has now taken several actions and is leading all the employees of this company after different blogs were published and after this issue spread on the media like wildfire.  In March 2019, a meeting was held in Reston, Virginia where workers raised their concerns over how they are being treated and to let them call for a union without the interference of the company. Shaick, an attorney for the Communications Workers of America, stated that the odds are against the employees as the management can conduct anti-union movements, which can be very pressurizing.

Although a very bleak picture has been painted, the exploited employees have banded together for this cause. This is because it was not just a handful of employees that faced this dire situation but around 2000 people, this makes for 2000 families that have been surviving on less than the optimum wage.

Dr. Patrick Dickson, a research analyst, suggests that the reclassification of jobs, better wages can tackle a lot of the various problems in our society. This is true because once people are paid better, not only does their standard of living increase but at the same time, various problems that plague the society as a whole also decrease. These include, but are not limited to; homelessness, crime rate, petty theft, vandalism, etc.

Author: Michael Wright

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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