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Workers mobilize on wage theft law

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Low-wage workers will be trained in the state’s tough new anti-wage theft law – and workers with their own cases will file claims – at a training Saturday.

Sponsored by the Just Pay For All Coalition [2] for worker leaders from the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos [3] of South Chicago, Chicago Workers’ Collaborative [4]  and Latino Union of Chicago [5], the training takes place at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 9 at CWC’s Chicago office, 5014 S. Ashland.

Joe Costigan, the new director of the Illinois Department of Labor, will discuss implementation of the law, and training will be conducted by staff from the Working Hands Legal Clinic, which drafted the law.

The new law [6] – possibly the toughest in the nation — provides stiffer penalties for employers who short their workers on wages and provides for an administrative hearing procedure under IDOL for wage claims under $3,000, which account for the vast majority of cases.  That system is still being set up.

It also makes it easier for workers to pursue civil lawsuits against their employers.

Coalition members say IDOL officials have told them that successful collections on judgements are up already as employers react to the threat of penalties for failure to respond.

A study [7] last year found that minimum wage and overtime violations are “prevalent in key industries” in Chicago’s economy, estimating that such violations cost Chicago area workers over $7 million each week.

“After the training we’ll have a bunch of workers and organizers trained in the new law and we can start to get the word out,” said Eric Rodriguez of the Latino Union.

He said wage theft is a “constant” problem for street-corner day laborers.  “We can go out there any morning and start talking abaout wage theft and people will come and approach us.”

“We’re psyched,” said Leone Bicchieri of CWC.  “We’re telling workers, now you have a new tool in your tool box to fight back.”