Illinois legislature passes groundbreaking anti-wage theft bill, measure will help economy, taxpayers, workers and businesses
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., June 7, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Illinois legislature has passed groundbreaking legislation (SB1720) to address wage theft in Illinois. Wage theft is estimated to cost American workers over $50 billion per year and news reports have shown Illinois is a very difficult and complex state for workers seeking to recoup stolen wages. The legislation prohibits businesses who violate state law on the payment of wages from receiving taxpayer-funded state contracts for at least five years. SB1720 also increases the penalty for disobeying a court order to pay back wages the court finds to have been stolen from an employee.
"In this time of fiscal crisis, we need to make sure that taxpayer-funded state contracts are only going to companies which treat their employees fairly. The vast majority of Illinois businesses, which play by the rules and do right by their employees, deserve a level playing field. Taxpayers deserve more confidence on how their money is spent. I was proud to support this common-sense measure," said State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) who voted for SB1720.
According to HourVoice, wage theft takes many forms, including: shorting workers on their hours, not paying the minimum wage, and not properly paying overtime. It impacts employees in every region of Illinois -- at all wage levels and in a wide array of industries.
"Wage theft is estimated to drain $800 million -- $3 billion a year from the Illinois economy," said State Representative Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) who sponsored the measure. "It can also push people below the poverty line and make it harder for working parents to support their children. But when low-income workers get the full pay they have earned, they improve the local and state economy with the dollars they spend."
Senate Bill 1720 passed both the House and Senate and now heads to Gov. Rauner for consideration. Legislators worked on the groundbreaking measure with grassroots organization HourVoice (www.HourVoice.com), which provides hourly workers and their advocates with new technologies for creating better workplaces.
We're almost there! On a bipartisan basis, the Illinois Senate concurred with the House on SB1720, the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Bill, and now it goes to Governor Rauner for his hoped-for signature.
And we are hopeful, because this is a good bill that helps not only workers, but ethical businesses, the Illinois economy, and its taxpayers. If you don't believe us, here's what State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) said:
“In this time of fiscal crisis, we need to make sure that taxpayer-funded state contracts are only going to companies which treat their employees fairly. The vast majority of Illinois businesses, which play by the rules and do right by their employees, deserve a level playing field. Taxpayers deserve more confidence on how their money is spent. I was proud to support this common-sense measure.”
The Illinois Fighting Wage Theft bill crossed another milestone off its list, passing the House in bi-partisan fashion. Our many thanks to all the representatives who voted for the bill, and special thanks to Reps Lisa Hernandez, Carol Ammons, Kathleen Willis, and Natalie Manley (and others -- we missed some of the floor debate) for standing up for this important measure. Thank you, ladies!
The bill increases penalties on businesses that refuse to pay wage theft judgments (yes, this happens a lot) and prohibits repeat and willful wage theft offenders from being awarded state contracts for five years.
As one Republican said, "I was proud to support this common-sense measure."
As well he should be.
Washington State just enacted a bill similar to the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act, barring businesses that willfully violate wage theft laws from receiving state contracts.
What's notable is the degree of bipartisanship displayed in supporting this bill. It was sponsored by a Republican in the Senate, and by Democrat in the House, and the respective votes were 46-3 and 63-33. Impressive.
As Senator Miloscia (R-Auburn), the Senate sponsor, explained, “The state shouldn't be supporting businesses that are taking hard-earned dollars from the state’s workers." He also said, "This change will affirm the state’s commitment to protecting workers and reward businesses who respect the law and take care of their employees.”
The Attorney General's press release also quoted statistics from the Economic Policy Institute highlighting that the dollar value of wage theft is twice that of robberies at banks, gas stations, and grocery stores.
Kudos to Washington State!
Recently, we packed up our marketing paraphernalia (fridge magnets!) and set up shop at the Illinois Resistance Resource Fair to talk about HourVoice and our support for for SB1720, the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Bill. We were joined by 60 other organizations and 600 attendees, plus four gubernatorial candidates, including Senator Daniel Biss, SB1720's sponsor.
The Illinois Senate Labor Committee passed the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft bill out of committee, 10-5. The vote was strictly along party lines. Our thanks to Senators Daniel Biss and Linda Holmes for defending the bill from various angles of attack, including Senator Jim Oberweis's odd (and untrue) contention that wage theft was usually just a "difference of opinion."
The floor vote will happen in early April.
Thanks also to Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) for co-sponsoring! On the House side, Representatives Lisa Hernandez (D-Chicago) and Carol Ammons (D-Champaign) are co-sponsors.
Get your "electeds" on board – click on the Take Action menu item (at the top of this page). You'll be asked for your address, and you can then edit a letter to your reps and Governor Rauner. It takes just 60 seconds (we timed it!). While your at it, ask them to co-sponsor the bill.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 21, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Three key legislators, State Senate Labor Committee Chairman Daniel Biss and State Representatives Lisa Hernandez and Carol Ammons, have joined forces with worker advocates, including HourVoice and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 881, to introduce groundbreaking legislation (SB1720) to crack down on wage theft in Illinois. Wage theft is estimated to cost American workers over $50 billion per year and news reports have shown Illinois is a very difficult state for workers to recoup stolen wages.
"Our Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act increases the penalties on companies that commit serious wage theft and prohibits those companies from receiving state government contracts for at least five years," said State Senator and Labor Committee Chairman Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who is sponsoring the bill. "Fair to both workers and businesses, SB1720 will level the playing field. Workers deserve to get paid every dollar they've earned and employers who treat workers properly and play by the rules shouldn't be undercut by competitors who cheat their workers."
Wage theft takes many forms, including: shorting workers on their hours, not paying the minimum wage, and not properly paying overtime. It most commonly victimizes low-paid workers; the very people who most need the money they earn.
Workers in nearly every industry are affected. For example, fast food giant Domino's was caught using payroll software that systematically underpaid workers, and a major road contractor paid with our Illinois tax dollars was caught shorting its workers by $1.5 million.
"Latinos and other minority workers are particularly victimized by companies that commit wage theft," explained State Representative Lisa Hernandez (D-Berwyn), a Member of the House Labor and Commerce Committee. "Wage theft robs hard working people of the money they need to support their families and it is a corporate crime that needs to be seriously punished."
"At a time when Illinois faces an unprecedented budget crisis, we should never be giving precious taxpayer dollars to companies that cheat their own workers." said State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Champaign). "I'm proud that our bill ensures that only companies that pay their workers fairly can be eligible for state contracts. We will help protect workers and Illinois taxpayers at the same time."
Governments across America are taking action to ensure taxpayer dollars don't go to companies that commit wage theft. The Cook County Board in 2015 passed an ordinance that "prohibits any company or individual who is found guilty or liable of wage theft from obtaining Cook County procurement contracts, business licenses or property tax incentives for a period of five years." In 2013, the Chicago City Council authorized the City of Chicago to pull the business licenses of companies that commit wage theft.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has aggressively fought wage theft by government contractors and sub-contractors, recently winning a series of arrests leading to guilty pleas that, "recovered nearly $1.5 million for underpaid workers, and resulted in the debarment of the subcontractors, which prevents them from bidding on or being awarded public works contracts in New York State for a period of five years."
"Wage theft is a very serious concern for workers in retail food and drug stores – and in workplaces across Illinois," said UFCW Local 881 Political Director Zach Koutsky. "This is a critical issue for the 34,000 workers we represent, and we commend Senator Biss and Representatives Hernandez and Ammons for leading the charge on this fundamental issue of justice and fairness."
A leading organization in highlighting working conditions in Illinois is HourVoice, founded by Chicago social entrepreneur Don Chartier (article). HourVoice provides a free online tool for hourly workers to rate their employers, find better ones, track their hours, and learn about their rights. HourVoice created the website www.FightingWageTheft.org, which helps Illinois residents connect with their legislators and Governor Rauner in support of the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act.