USA - Wage Theft Rampant in America

J. Froese

Since assuming office in Philadelphia last year, Larry Krasner has earned a national reputation as a radical new kind of district attorney. Last October, he took another bold step: He created a task force focused on crimes against workers.

One of the primary crimes this task force will focus on is wage theft. At the absolute simplest, wage theft is as it sounds—[workers don’t] get fully paid for the work they’ve done. Often employers pull this off by paying for less than the number of hours worked, not paying for legally required overtime, or stealing tips. That’s money that workers are legally entitled to and that their bosses find some way of pocketing.

Wage theft isn’t one of the crimes most prosecutors and politicians refer to when they talk about getting “tough on crime,” but it represents a massive chunk of all theft committed in the U.S.A. A 2017 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that in the ten most populous states, an estimated 2.4 million people lose a combined $8 billion in income every year to theft by their employers. That’s nearly half as much as all other property theft combined last year—$16.4 billion according to the FBI. And again, EPI’s findings are only for ten states. According to the institute, the typical worker victimized by minimum-wage violations is underpaid by $64 per week, totaling $3,300 per year. If its figures are representative of a national phenomenon, then EPI estimates that the yearly total for American wage theft is closer to $15 billion.

There are some overt ways that employers rob their workers, like taking money directly out of their paychecks, but wage theft can take more complicated and subtler forms. Deliberately mislabeling workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying higher wages for the same responsibilities as regular employees, for example, or asking employees to work while off the clock, or denying meal breaks, all technically fall under wage theft., 8 November 2019


It is interesting that the Bible has much to say about wage theft, although it is not often discussed in Christian circles. We may remember James 5:4: “ Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth”; and Deuteronomy 25:4: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” There are many other passages in the Bible about treating workers fairly: Deuteronomy 24:14-15, Leviticus 19:13, Malachi 3:5, Jeremiah 22:13, Luke 10:7, and 1 Corinthians 9:7-9, for example.

For employers, the application is clear: pay your workers what they have (or should have) earned. For the rest of us, it is useful to remember these verses when tipping servers in restaurants. Generosity is a wonderful Christian witness, especially when you are dressed in your Sunday best. In the United States, that means a minimum of 15%, even if—and probably especially when—the server is clearly having a bad day. Unfortunately, over the years, many servers have told us that they often see the worst tips on Sunday afternoon. (By J. Froese)

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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