Waging War on Wage Theft

September 10, 2019

Wage theft in the construction industry is rampant and can have devastating effects on our communities. Employers who cheat their employees out of pay can charge less for work and drive good, well-paying job providers out of business. For workers who directly experience wage theft, it can be hard to surmise their suffering – hunger, vehicle repossession, bankruptcy, homelessness – all because of employer greed and a system that allows unchecked subcontracting.

This past August, a group of subcontracted construction workers met to discuss a campaign to secure wages from unpaid work dating back to last fall. The workers (who must remain anonymous at this time) were directed to MassCOSH by a spouse who has been long involved in our worker center and was able to identify the wage theft that was occurring through the trainings she received.

With the involvement of the Greater Boston Legal Services, the workers mapped out a timeline of the work they completed, when wage theft occurred, and learned about the rights they have to pursue legal action. With the assistance of new MassCOSH staff member Ben Weilerstein, the workers also plotted out potential actions to draw attention to their wage theft, designed to pressure their employer to pay them the wages they were owned to avoid the public shaming. Although individual worker campaigns like this are important, MassCOSH is also addressing the larger issue of wage theft at the state level, partnering with the AFL CIO and other members of the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative to create systemic changes to through legislation.