Friday, November 19, 2004

Coolie America

This is your future:
"Workers at hair salons, supermarkets, restaurants, discount stores, call centers, car washes and other businesses who have murmured only to one another about off-the-clock work are now speaking up and documenting the illegal practice.
In interviews and in affidavits supporting employee lawsuits, Ms. LeBlue and more than 50 workers from a dozen companies said they were required to do such unpaid work despite federal and state laws that prohibit it and despite recent lawsuits against Wal-Mart and other companies that have highlighted the problem.
"It is prevalent," said Alfred Robinson, director of the wage and hour division of the Labor Department. "It is one of the more common violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act."
Though there have been no formal studies of the practice or of its overall cost to employees, the workers interviewed said off-the-clock work took place at a variety of companies: A&P, J. P. Morgan Chase, Pep Boys, Ryan's Family Steakhouses, TGF Precision HairCutters and Ms. LeBlue's company, SmartStyle, which is part of the Regis Corporation, the nation's largest chain of hairstylists. SmartStyle and many of the other companies say they bar off-the-clock work, and they are fighting the lawsuits.
Over the last year, the Labor Department has brought enforcement actions against several companies that required off-the-clock work, seeking back pay and demanding compliance. The agency has grown more aggressive after plaintiffs' lawyers filed scores of off-the-clock lawsuits, some resulting in multimillion-dollar settlements with prominent companies, including Radio Shack and Starbucks.
In April, the Pleasantview Healthcare Center of Bolivar, Tenn., paid $44,887 in back wages after the Labor Department found off-the-clock violations involving 41 employees - many of them clocked out while finishing their daily tasks. In February, the department recovered $180,000 from the Hanna Steel Corporation after finding that 522 employees had been forced for months to begin work five minutes before their regular shifts started.
Off-the-clock work can take many forms. Employees are sometimes told that it is the way people advance in a company, and other times they are forced to show up early or stay late under threat of losing their jobs.
Although many employees fear retribution, a number of workers said they were now willing to talk because they were angry and involved in lawsuits seeking back pay.
Waylon Pastorius, a TeleTech call-center worker in Niagara Falls, N.Y., said he was required to arrive 15 minutes before each shift began, but was not paid for that time. Sharon Djafaripour said she was instructed to record only eight hours of work a day even though she regularly worked nine and a half making crowns, bridges and other dental devices at MicroDental laboratory in Dublin, Calif. Vicky Atchley, who worked for eight years as a waitress at Ryan's Family Steakhouses in Chattanooga, Tenn., said managers often clocked her out during her lunch breaks even when she had to work through them because the restaurant was so busy. They have all sued their companies for back pay."
Those damned tort lawyers! Raising costs by representing wage slaves and victims of corporate negligence. Aren't you glad the Republicans have got a man in office to get rid of them and make America safe again for corporate hooliganism?With luck, Bush will get his way and eliminate this threat to "economic growth" strangling the nation's businesses. He may even be able to get rid of the Fair Labor Standards Act!

2 comments:

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