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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Wage theft

There's been a number of articles and stories in the news about wage theft like this one here. Which got me to thinking is this something new or has it been SOP for business and people are finally getting wise? Which made me go down memory lane.
  • My first job was at a Taco Bell June of 1969. I worked for a month on the night shift. We closed at 11:00pm and were given 30 minutes to clean up and clock out. I was 16 and made a whopping $.75 an hour. The one perk was that all food and drink was free. A teenage boy allowed to eat all the tacos, burritos and bell beefers (their hamburger, not on the menu now) he wants even if everything on the menu at that time was 25 cents; it more than made up the difference for the then minimum wage of $1.60/hour. The first night manager knew how to get everything cleaned and put away in that time. Mom had to take me to work and come bak to take me home, but she thought it was good for me to get work experience. Gil left after my first week and Mary was his replacement as night manager. She didn't have a clue and most nights we didn't get out until one in the morning, but we had to clock out at 11:30. One night we didn't get done till 0300. Mom to this day says while she was sitting out there waiting for me that she would rather have paid me to not work there. Working an hour and a half to four hours without getting paid I chalked up to experience and fortunately for some bizarre reason the regular manger fired me after working there three weeks. Mom breathed a sigh of relief. 
  • Same summer in July and August I worked at an A&W. The only thing free to employees was root beer. After a week I started drinking water. It was a much better place to work than Taco Bell and I got a whopping $1.15/hour. I answered the intercom taking orders and the fountain filling drink orders, making milk shakes, frosties and floats. It was close enough to home to walk back and forth and Mom didn't have to wait outside for me. Where does wage theft come in? Taking orders I also added up the bill, if I overcharged I got a tongue lashing from Mr. Hamilton (he's long dead now and the business has gone through a dozen incarnations since it was an A&W.) as that has a tendency to drive customers away. If I was under, the difference was taken out of my paycheck. Every paycheck anywhere from fifty cents to a buck and a half was deducted. Basically every week I had one hour of my wages deducted. I didn't like it at the time and I have never worked in food since.
  • Senior year in high school I worked at a Skaggs drug store for the Christmas rush and the summer before heading off to college. I was paid minimum wage and treated well and never had anything deducted from my wages or required to work without pay even when I had a two wheeler of distilled water tip over and nine gallons of water spilled on the floor. I worked as a security guard senior year of college. While working for Pinkerton's and Burns everything was above board.
  • While going through a divorce I was a door to door salesman for month of July in 1976, and it nearly ruined me. It was straight commission, the first week was memorizing the script so gas to and from was not paid or my time. All calls to the customers was in my car and with my gas. When I started going out on calls the commission on a $800 set of fire alarms was $150.00. And in the next three weeks I sold four sets so I should have made $600.00, guess again. My take for the whole four weeks as I drove all over Albuquerque sometimes putting on fifty miles an evening in my car and on my dime was $150.00. I got paid for only one set. If the customer's credit wasn't good enough the set was sold to a high risk credit company and the salesman didn't get the commission. A month of this and I ran up a tab on my lone credit card of $400.00. When I finally came to my senses and school started I worked as a substitute teacher and in the evenings as a security guard again. I took me six months to pay off that credit card.
  • If you think about how teachers are paid, wage theft is the norm. Teachers are paid for 180 days of classroom instruction and 2 days of in-service meetings and registration. The salary is spread out over twelve months, but all those holidays and vacation days like fall break, winter break, spring break and summer break are not paid. Each paid day is for 6 1/2 hours of instruction. Before school meetings and after school meetings, parent/teacher conferences are not paid. The vast majority of teachers put eight to ten hours a day and possibly weekend hours to plan, grade and prepare out of the goodness of their hearts. The IRS recognizes that teachers also dip into their own pockets for supplies and allow a $500.00 deduction on income tax. Believe me the IRS is on the low side of what teachers spend. If all states paid their public school teachers for the hours they really work and provided the supplies required it would triple their operational education budget. The taxpayers get a big break from wage theft when it comes to teachers. Don't get me started about how little public school coaches make per hour expended.
  • Lastly my short experience with a cheapskate employer. Day care was cutting into our budget and I thought a part time job was needed. I went back to being a security guard in the evenings and on weekends (most teachers have a second job, see why above), but Burns and Pinkertons weren't hiring. I got a job with a local security firm working 4 hours a day every day of the week, but the kicker here was 5% of each paycheck was deducted as rent of the uniforms. Burns and Pinkertons simply provided them and if you left their employ you returned them. 5% on 28 hours of work per week and $4.50 and hour may not seem like much, but it lowered the hourly salary to $4.27/hour. How cheap do you have to be to charge an employee 23 cents an hour to use a uniform that has to be worn for the job?

3 comments:

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I think that a lot of wage theft goes on and it is totally shameful. Luckily the only time I was a victim was in middle school. My brother and I worked for a guy mowing, and cleaning his yard several hours each week. He paid $1.25 per hour and then he announced on week that we were going to have to split the $1.25. My Dad said we will go work for somebody else and we did.

I hate cheapskates and people who defraud others. Especially those working for not very much to begin with.

Michael Manning said...

Glad you wrote this post, PM. Although I dislike politics, I have to mention the ethical bankruptcy and moral outrage of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's elimination of collective bargaining rights. I believe there should be fairness on both sides of the equation in employment. Small businesses cannot always offer a livable wage, as even owners struggle. But stealing from employees is just plain wrong.

P M Prescott said...

They always find ways of doing it though.
Thanks Michael and Yogi for your comments.