Working America Launches “Dear David”
July 20, 2012 8:37 am
Working America, the AFL-CIO affiliated grass roots organizing group and “the fastest-growing organization for working people in the country .. fight[ing] for our common interests—good jobs, affordable health care, education, retirement security, corporate accountability and real democracy,” has launched it’s own advice column (no, it will not cover manners).
“Dear David” features questions submitted by workers about their rights and concerns on the job, to be answered by Working America’s organizing director David Wehde. From WA’s newsletter announcement: “Too often, we feel like there are no options when we’re mistreated at work-that we’re powerless and on our own. Now, as organizing director, I’m here to help, with real advice for today’s workforce. Ask me anything-how to deal with an unsafe workplace, verbal abuse from a supervisor, or not getting everything you’ve earned in your paycheck. I’ll help you figure out what your rights are and empower you to fix difficult problems. You deserve dignity and fair treatment at work-and you’re not alone.”
Wehde’s responses to workers’ questions appear to mix compassion and common sense with tools for workers who may be experiencing exploitation, abuse or discrimination at work.
A sample Q&A from a 16 year old worker:
July 12, 2012
I’m sixteen and got my first job working at a grocery store. I guess I wasn’t trained properly on WIC and was told by the owner that the husband could sign for it too. Well that’s not true, and WIC didn’t refund the store for the purchase. So the boss took the wages out of my check. Is that illegal? What is my recourse to get my wages back?
— WICked Mad, The Checkout Aisle
Hey, my first real job in high school was also at a grocery store—it can provide some great skills training. And think about how smooth you’ll be bagging your own groceries and facing the food items in your own pantry some day—some really mad skills, you will be set for life!
Good work spotting a real issue here. It’s also a good skill to know how to watch out for yourself and to know that your employer is not always right and won’t always operate in your own best interest. Here’s the scoop: Under federal law (the Fair Labor Standards Act), hourly employees cannot be required to reimburse the employer for its financial losses (here, failure to get a refund from WIC) if by doing so their wages fall below minimum wage. See this DOL fact sheet for the details (PDF).
To take action, you can file a complaint with your state wage and hour division or with the federal Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. And keep in mind–an employer cannot terminate an employee for filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division. Let us know how it goes!
For more information about wage theft—it happens more than you know, check this out!
Image of David Wehde at a Working America event from here.