On the Job

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Many U.S. workers are being cheated by employers who blatantly violate thelaws that are supposed to guarantee them decent wages, hours, and workingconditions.

That's been going on for a long time. But President Obama and his excellentSecretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, have just launched a major campaign to tryto overcome the very serious damage of the past.

Obama, Solis, and their allies in organized labor are taking steps aimed atgetting workers to report employer violations of the wage and hour laws. They're paying special attention to low-wage workers, who are among the most exploited. And they're trying to respond as quickly as possible to theworkers' complaints.

Undocumented immigrants, perhaps the most exploited of all workers, arebeing encouraged to make complaints and are being promised they won't bepunished for their illegal status. As the Labor Department explains, allworkers deserve decent treatment, whatever their legal status.

Solis' Labor Department has made the campaign a top priority. The departmentalready has hired more than 250 more investigators, increasing the numberby more than one-third. And Solis is moving to make sure that workers understandtheir legal rights and report any violations of those rights.


Certainly there's no doubt there are plenty of violations to report. Arecent survey of workers in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, for instance,found thousands of rampant abuses of low-wage workers, many of them undocumented immigrants.

They worked in a wide variety of occupations. More than one-fourth had beenpaid less than the legal minimum wage. Many had been denied overtime pay orhad their pay illegally docked for the cost of tools or transportation.Still others were forced to work without pay before and after their regularwork shifts.

The AFL-CIO, its affiliated unions, and other worker support groups aredistributing material that spells out the labor laws and how to reportviolations, they're arranging meetings between workers and Labor Departmentstaffers, holding forums at union halls, and otherwise playing a major rolein the campaign.

Win or lose, the drive to greatly strengthen workers' rights is one of themost important ever undertaken by any U.S. administration.

With a Perspective, this is Dick Meister.