Low-wage workers increasingly struggle to support themselves and their families with their wages. Abusive employer practices and stagnant minimum wages prevent many workers, even those able to find full-time employment, from earning a living wage. Wage theft is rampant: all too often, employers violate labor and employment laws by failing to pay the minimum wage for all hours worked, refusing to pay overtime, or classifying employees as independent contractors to avoid laws that protect workers. These violations disproportionally affect women, people of color, and immigrants. Women make up the majority of the low-wage workforce, while people of color and immigrants are similarly overrepresented in low-paying jobs and industries. Further, many workers are excluded from the protections afforded by labor and employment law, including health and safety standards and freedom from discrimination.
NCLEJ works to address these problems. In groundbreaking litigation, NCLEJ secured protection against sexual harassment for workfare workers, that is, individuals, often women and people of color, who work in exchange for their welfare benefits without receiving any wages for such work. In New Mexico, NCLEJ helped farmworkers win inclusion in the state’s workers compensation system from which they had been historically excluded.
NCLEJ is also a part of the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, launched on the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act by national and state-based women’s rights organizations. The campaign calls for an end to the gender wage gap that persists in nearly every industry and profession in the country. This gap varies by state and city, by education level and occupation, and is magnified for African-American and Hispanic women.
Many low-wage workers need to turn to public benefits to make ends meet. Our low-wage worker advocacy complements our efforts to secure such critical work supports as health benefits, food stamps, and child care for working families.
NCLEJ partners with worker centers and other advocates across the country to secure fair wages and create safe and dignified workplaces for low-wage workers. We welcome opportunities for new collaborations. Feel free to contact us.