DU Fighting to Prevent Wage Theft
Crowdfunding effort under way for DU’s Just Wages Project
The one thing we all expect after a day of hard work is to be paid for the job done. This may seem a reasonable expectation, but for thousands of Colorado workers, wage theft is a growing concern.
Since 2015, the DU Just Wages Project in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies has led a research team to investigate wage theft, especially with day laborers. To date, the research group has surveyed more than 400 day laborers and has discovered that over 60 percent have suffered wage theft. Of that number, 20 percent have experienced wage theft in the six months prior to being surveyed.
“When workers are cheated out of their earned wages, not only do unscrupulous employers accrue an unjust business advantage, but wage theft also has ripple effects in workers’ lives who may not be able to send money home, pay rent, or feed their families,” says Rebecca Galemba, the professor who leads the Just Wages Project.
The work being done by Galemba and her team of student volunteers is providing quantitative and qualitative data to government agencies, local nonprofits and various advocates through the Colorado Wage Theft Task Force. Some of her students work with El Centro Humanitario's Direct Action Team to accompany workers through the process of reclaiming their wages through direct action, small claims court, or the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
From now through Oct. 9, the University’s crowdfunding platform — DUGood — is helping raise money and awareness for the Just Wages Project. The goal is to collect at least $2,500 to help fund student researchers, disseminate research findings and increase overall public outreach.
“We are all victims when we do not examine how our communities are being built and at what cost,” Galemba says. “When employers commit wage theft, they not only hurt our most vulnerable workers, but also put honest employers out of business, creating a race to the bottom. Cutting corners further undermines the work being conducted in our city. Fighting on behalf of workers is crucial to building a just city.”