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Interview with Nationally Recognized Labor Activist Kim Bobo

Kim Bobo, founder and executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, talked with Construction Citizen blogger Jim Kollaer during her recent visit to Houston.  Kollaer asked her about the upcoming second edition of her book Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans are Not Getting Paid – and What We Can Do About It.  The new addition will include a chapter about ethical businesses to demonstrate that even in industries like construction where everyone is struggling to survive the current economic downturn, there are still ethical employers who are doing the right thing.  There is a new chapter about payroll fraud (also called worker misclassification and workplace fraud) which is the illegal practice where employers pay their workers as independent contractors instead of as employees.  Two new chapters focus on state and local efforts to enforce wage theft laws and penalize violators.

Kollaer asked about Bobo’s communication with the Department of Labor and how they are expanding their enforcement activities.  Bobo mentioned that many of the things the DOL is doing about wage theft were things she recommended in the first edition of her book, but that in her opinion, they are still not doing enough to strengthen partnerships at the community level such as with community groups, religious groups, and with ethical employers who all share the desire to eliminate the practice of wage theft.  In the following video, you can hear Bobo state:

“I think that the construction sector is really one of the worst sectors in terms of not paying people fairly, wage theft, and payroll fraud.  So we have got to come at it from all different directions. ... It’s going to take all of us.  It’s going to take citizens who are saying ‘Hey, I only want to hire contractors who actually pay people fairly’.  It’s going to take employers who say ‘Hey, I’m going to take the risk to do the right thing’.  So it really has to be all of us together.  I believe in enforcement, but that alone won’t do it because there is not enough enforcement staff at either the federal or the state level.”

Like its predecessor, the new edition of Wage Theft in America will be an invaluable resource for legislators, workers and concerned citizens about the problems and possible solutions to this unjust and corrupt practice.  Look for the book’s release just before Labor Day.

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