10:37am

Mon November 28, 2011
The Commonwealth

Kentucky Leaders Discuss Wage Theft Issues

 

Local leaders and advocacy groups are meeting Tuesday night to present and hear testimony against wage theft in Kentucky. Wage theft is the underpayment or non-payment of workers’ wages. The Kentucky Jobs with JusticeWorkers’ Rights Board, which includes state representatives and community leaders, will now hear arguments from experts and individuals affected by wage theft and will try to address how the state can respond.

Wage theft is difficult to enforce because many jurisdictions lack resources, wrote Rebecca Smith from the National Employement Law Project in an email.

“Most states have criminal penalties for ‘theft of services,’ but wage violations are more frequently punished as civil violations.  Wage theft has become a real defining trend of the 21st century labor economy, and in some cases it is the business model of a particular company,” Smith said.

This is the first time Kentucky has made a concerted public effort to address the issue, said Bree Pearsall with Kentucky Equal Justice Center, which will join the Workers’ Rights Board in hearing testimony. Pearsall also helped Seattle’s wage theft campaign earlier this year, which resulted in changes to city law.

“We really want to survey the landscape of what’s going on, what tools we already have and what innovated ideas are already happening around the country that might benefit Louisville and the state of Kentucky as well,” Pearsall said.

The idea behind Tuesday’s meeting is to give local and state governments the tools they need to enact change, she said.

“At this point all of the options are on the table…looking at cities that have made changes to their local city ordinances and also state-wide legislation and then just agency changes,” said Pearsall.

One of the goals of Tuesday’s meeting is to craft a resolution against wage theft for the Louisville Metro Council, said Flaco Aleman with Kentucky Jobs with Justice.

The hearing will take place at Metro United Way Tuesday night.