New Report by the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center Highlights Widespread Effects of Wage Theft in Houston

New Report by the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center Highlights Widespread Effects of Wage Theft in Houston

Houston, TX – A new report by the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center highlights the alarming effects of wage theft in the city of Houston. The report estimates that over $753.2 million is lost every year due to wage theft among low-wage workers in the Houston region. As wage theft is becoming a defining trend of low-wage industries in the 21st century, Houston workers and businesses are being hard-hit with the dire consequences of this labor abuse. The repercussions of wage theft are city-wide and affect business owners, communities, and workers alike.

“Houston, We Have a Wage Theft Problem: The Impact of Wage Theft in Our City, and the Local Solutions Necessary to Stop It” offers a startling look at a pervasiveness of wage theft in Houston. Low-wage workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft, although all types of workers are affected by the over 100 wage and hour violations that occur in the Houston area every week.

“I work hard to provide for my family,” says Marvin M., a construction worker and member of the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center. “The least I expect is to be paid for all my work, but unfortunately, that has not always been the case.” Marvin reports being owed over $8,000 for remodeling work performed throughout 2010.

The report also found that across the board, agencies and institutions charged with enforcing wage and hour laws face many limitations, including understaffing, jurisdictional issues, and resource barriers. As a result, workers face an uphill battle to recover their wages. This not only reduces their already low incomes, but also robs local communities of their spending power, further limiting economic growth.

Cyndi G. is a daughter, mother, and former floral shop worker who was owed over $7,000 in back wages. “This Mother’s Day, it will be a year since I reported my case, and I am still waiting to recover my money,” says Cyndi. The Texas Workforce Commission conducted an investigation and attempted to collect her back wages, but until this day, she has not been paid in full. “[Wage theft] really starts a domino effect of hardship. I’ve lost my car, my house, and now I’m living with my family hoping to get back on my feet and finally get the money I’m owed.”

Houston is demographically susceptible to wage theft, given its large immigrant, low-income, and low-wage worker population. As a growing urban area, Houston has widespread construction and service industries, two of the industries where wage theft is increasingly common.

“While Houston provides a troubling picture of the spreading wage theft trend, it also has many opportunities to effectively address this issue through community action and public policy,” notes Jose Eduardo Sanchez, organizer for the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center.

The Center hopes the report will bring attention to a rarely-examined problem in the City of Houston, but most importantly, spur the engagement of the community and city officials in implementing real solutions to eliminate wage theft.

A press conference will take place at 1pm, after which the Center will present the findings of the report during the 2pm City Council Public Session. The report will be available online at www.downwithwagetheft.org after May 8, 2012. For media inquiries or information on the report, please contact jose@hiwj.org or 832-715-5975.

WHAT:  Press conference to announce report findings and hear from affected workers

WHEN: 1pm, Tuesday May 7th, 2012

WHERE: 900 Smith St (in front of City Hall Steps)

WHO: Worker Center staff, community allies, and affected workers giving their testimony

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The Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center (HIWJC) is a membership-based organization that provides a safe space for low-wage workers to learn about their workplace rights and organize to improve working conditions on the job. For more information visit http://www.hiwj.org

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