Quite simply, wage theft happens when someone does work and is not paid for it.
“Immigrants are easy targets, most don’t realize it’s a crime,” said Kathleen Santora, a member of the recently appointed to the Lynn Wage Theft Taskforce and a union painter representing the Painters Union District Council 35 Local 939. “But wage theft can happen to anyone in any industry.”
“We have a very strong ordinance in Lynn, it has some teeth in it and can actually do something,” Santora said. Having a taskforce in place also makes a difference.
The Wage Theft Taskforce, comprised of one (1) designee submitted by the Lynn City Council, one (1) designee submitted by the Mayor, one (1) representative chosen by the Lynn City Council from a list provided by the North Shore Labor Council, one (1) representative chosen by the Lynn City Council from a list provided by the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, one (1) representative chosen by the Lynn City Council from a list provided by the North Shore Latino Business Association, one (1) representative chosen by the Lynn City Council from a list provided by the North Shore Building Trades Council, one (1) representative chosen by the Lynn City Council from a list provided by the Lynn Worker Center, and one (1) representative from the Lynn community chosen by the Lynn City Council from a list provided by New Lynn Coalition. Members of the Wage Theft Advisory Committee may be reappointed annually and must be appointed no later than the second meeting of the new year.
The wage ordinance was passed by the Lynn City Council in March 2018 after it was offered as a motion by then City Councilor and now State Representative Peter Capano.
“A business owner has the opportunity to do the right thing and pay up. Then they can continue doing business as usual with a bond to cover paying the employee for a year or it can end up in the attorney general’s office,” said Santora, who is a leading advocate for the building trades. She was nominated to the committee by the North Shore Labor Council.
A recent report from the attorney general’s office showed that $10 million interest and penalties in charged in fiscal year 2018 and 241 job sites were visited in investigations.
Just a month ago an Ipswich construction company and its owners were cited $580,611 in restitution and penalties for violations of state wage and hour laws, according to Attorney General Maura Healey. The AG’s office issued six citations against ERA Equipment LLC and its owners, Kristen and Angelo Ciardiello, for a range of wage theft violations including failing to pay overtime and the prevailing wage.
“The taskforce job to oversee Lynn so we can help bring cases to the Attorney General’s office if they occur,” Santora said. “We hope none occur. Hopefully the ordinance will get people to do the right thing.”
Santora added that wage theft does affect everybody. It can be anything from people not being paid to or not being allowed to take lunch breaks, not being paid overtime, people working differential shifts and not getting the money, any way in which somebody is entitled to wages and they are not being delivered. People paying in cash are also violating the wage theft laws.
“It’s rampant, it’s in every industry – from the lowest worker to union construction sometimes, not paying overtime, is unacceptable, or a contractor may short someone on their hours,” Santora said.
Santora stressed that wage theft hurts not only the person whose wages are being stolen but it hurts honest business people who are being undercut by people who are not playing fair.
“Every taxpayer is affected by this because money is being lost,” Santora said.