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Poor Josh Hawley Can’t Help Himself

Fortunately, in some quarters, wage theft is being treated with the seriousness it deserves. Just this week, ProPublica produced a blockbuster report on wage theft in New York City, finding that from 2017 to 2021, “more than $203 million in wages had been stolen from about 127,000 workers in New York.” And Documented, which partnered with ProPublica to produce the piece, this week launched its Wage Theft Monitor, which allows anyone to dig down into the data of who got ripped off and who did the stealing.


Under Biden, the Labor Department—whose acting secretary, Julie Su, made her name helping workers keep their hard-earned money from being pilfered by their bosses—has been frisky in the fight against wage theft. Last October, the agency reversed a Trump-era rule that permitted gig-economy employers to misclassify their workforce. A month later, an agency investigation led to Krispy Kreme paying $1.2 million in damages and back wages to more than 500 workers who’d been denied overtime. And this week, the department extended overtime protections to 3.6 million workers, the estimated equivalent of an additional “$1.2 billion in employees’ pockets, both in the form of more overtime pay and also salary increases by employers to ensure their white-collar workers will be exempt from the new rules,” according to the L.A. Times.

Naturally, we’ve a ways to go before all of the money that corporations have absconded with is back with whom it belongs. Perhaps the biggest policy change we could make in support of that effort, as TNR contributing editor Osita Nwanevu has written in the past, is to pave the way for worker ownership of firms. In the meantime, however, whenever you hear about a shoplifting crisis, remember that the actual theft isn’t occurring in the aisles of your nearby chain stores; it’s occurring in their boardrooms.

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