Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

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Search results for "minimum wage" ...

  • Politico: Wage Theft

    Raising hourly pay is a rallying cry for politicians and activists, but they’ve put little attention on a key problem for low-wage workers: states often fail to get workers the money they’re owed. Combining data analysis and interviews, a nine-month Politico investigation found workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators. Given the widespread nature of wage theft and the dearth of resources to combat it, an estimated $15 billion in desperately needed income for workers with the lowest wages goes instead into the pockets of shady bosses.
  • Stolen Wages

    In the last eight years both the Washington Legislature and the Seattle City Council passed laws to address wage theft, which happens when employers withhold wages or deny benefits rightfully owed to an employee. It’s a misdemeanor under city and state law. And yet in hundreds of cases annually, InvestigateWest learned, Washington fails to retrieve workers’ shorted wages. Meanwhile, the city ordinance has yet to bring about even a single prosecution of employers who withhold pay. The Washington Department of Labor & Industries has sped up wage complaint investigations over the past several years, yet four in 10 cases take longer than the legally mandated 60 days. And the department collects less than $6 out of every $10 it says workers are owed, an analysis of state records by InvestigateWest found. These shortfalls reported by InvestigateWest threaten to undermine a flagship achievement of worker advocates and Seattle city leadership: the new $15-an-hour city minimum wage that will begin to go into effect this year.
  • Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor

    The U.S. government is the nation's single largest employer of undocumented immigrants. This was the startling discovery of a 7-month investigation into a little-known program that allows the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to employ these immigrants and pay them a $1 a day or less to perform most of the jobs running the 250 federal immigration detention centers around the country. This finding was even more striking considering the number of undocumented workers involved -- more than 60,000 per year -- and the amount of money the federal government saves and private prison companies make (at least $40 million annually) as a direct result of being allowed to pay these people so far below the minimum wage, or about 13 cents per hour.
  • Paid a pittance

    This investigation was the first comprehensive analysis of Pennsylvania's use of a Depression-Era provision that allows workers with disabilities to be paid below minimum wage.
  • Wage Theft In the Fields

    American farmworkers have often experienced egregious abuses, but nothing is more pervasive, nor harder to ferret out, than the wage theft that results from a practice called farm-labor contracting. Found in the fields of every handpicked crop in the country, farm-labor contractors not only provide growers with crews, but also handle wages and manage everything from verifying immigration status to providing workers' compensation. The problem is, the contractors systematically underpay the workers. “Farm labor contractors,” says writer Tracie McMillan, “give American produce growers what companies like China's Foxconn offer to Apple: a way to outsource a costly and complicated part of the business, often saving money in the process and creating a firewall between the brand and the working conditions under which its products are made.” And yet McMillan — a fellow with both the Knight-Wallace program at University of Michigan, and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University — found that enforcement is rare: In 2008, inspectors visited only 1,499 of the more than 2 million farms nationwide; in 2011, California inspectors found just seven minimum wage violations on the state’s 86,000 farms. Fines are minimal: “It's cheaper to violate the law than to follow the law,” says one farmworker advocate. And wage theft is tedious to prove, requiring inspectors to interview workers, analyze time cards, and collect payroll records. That's why workers and their advocates in California are counting on a lawsuit brought earlier this year on behalf of two farmworkers against the contractors who hired them—as well as the growers who outsourced the work. The suit alleges that the contractors routinely undercounted the hours worked, failed to pay minimum wage or overtime, failed to provide safe or sanitary working conditions, and housed the workers in unsafe and unsanitary living quarters. The “collective action” suit—open to anyone who can prove he or she experienced the same treatment—may cover thousands of workers and deliver awards substantial enough to deter other employers from the same practices.
  • Help Wanted

    The series explored work opportunities for those in one of the state's most vulnerable populations. It explained a little-known federal law that allows workers with disabilities to earn than less than minimum wage and took readers inside sheltered workshops where more than 80 percent of workers earn less than half of the minimum wage.
  • Wire firm a force in debate over immigration

    THe wire-transfer firm Western Union and its former owner, First Data Corp., are spending millions of dollars in programs to encourage illegal immigration. Western Union was nearly bankrupt in the mid-1990s, and since the company has been led to record-high profits because of a 10-year wave of immigration.
  • Less than minimum

    Reporter Chris Mahon discovered that ORC Industries, Inc., a Brownsville, TX, nonprofit, paid 20 percent of its employees less than minimum wage because they were disabled. That practice is legal, but one employee who was not disabled received less than minimum wage, and another whose disability did not affect work performance was paid under minimum. Both examples violate federal law.
  • Workers: We Were Cheated Out of Pay. Restaurant Cleaning Company Says Pay Deductions Legal. Labor Experts Not So Sure.

    This investigation found that "CanAmera, a Canadian-based company that cleans restaurants in four states and Ontario, violated a host of state and federal labor laws, including laws governing minimum wage, overtime, a day of rest and federal and tax withholdings. The company also illegally withheld money from workers' paychecks. The company hired worked with limited English skills with promises of a good job. But, in fact, the mostly Spanish speaking workers found themselves fighting for money they said was owed to them."
  • Doing Well by Doing Good?

    "ORC Industries of La Crosse, a not - for- profit corporation that makes apparel for the Department of Defense, has given its president an extremely generous compensation and retirement package while paying its largely - disabled workforce a sub-minimum wage. The first story revealed that ORC's president received $375,000 in 2001. The third story revealed that the president received $625,000 in 2002, and that the board set up a $1 million retirement account for her. The stories also explained how ORC industries leases real estate from its president at above - market rental rates.