The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Government Ignores Wage Theft

Aug 1, 2022

There is a crime wave sweeping the country. And none of the officials and police spokespersons are talking about it. There is a media frenzy about lawlessness and chaos every time a “snatch-and-grab” occurs at a luxury store. And yet, none of these officials say anything about the largest crime wave sweeping the country—wage theft. That is, the bosses stealing workers’ wages.

According to estimates by the Economic Policy Institute, companies stole 2 billion dollars from workers in California in 2015 alone. Nationwide, experts estimate that employers steal at least 15 billion dollars a year from workers through minimum wage violations. This is more than 12.7 billion, the total annual value of all robberies, burglaries, larceny, and motor vehicle theft in the country, according to the FBI.

And minimum wage violations are only one type of wage theft. Some of the common ways bosses steal from workers are when bosses don’t pay out tips, don’t pay overtime, deny breaks, don’t let workers accrue sick time, or bounce checks. At any one of these instances, the bosses are breaking the law by stealing from the workers.

In supposedly “liberal” California, where politicians claim to be openly pro-labor, wage theft wasn’t even considered a felony until last year. But despite the rampant wage theft, there have been no criminal prosecutions since then either, and no one has been put in jail.

Officials tell workers to look to government to resolve their problems. But the state government continuously violates its own deadlines for resolving wage theft cases. The average case filed last year that got to a decision took double the time allowed by law. Thousands of cases from 2021 are still waiting for a hearing date.

According to a CalMatters report, workers filed nearly 17,000 claims totaling more than 300 million dollars in stolen wages. However, only one in eight recovered stolen wages.

Such outright lawlessness by the bosses reflects how the capitalists operate. The less they pay, the more profits they rake in. And even when they break their own laws, government officials look the other way.