Oct 4 8:59 AM

Stolen Wages

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Fault Lines investigates wage practices in the restaurant industry, to find out what happens when workers are not paid what they are legally owed.

In September of 2012, close to 20 Miami Beach restaurant workers marched in front of David’s Cafe, a restaurant owned by their former employer, Adrian Gonzalez. Theprotestors each worked at David’s Cafe II prior to its closing in 2011 and were demanding over $70,000 in unpaid wages. After months of little action from authorities, including the Department of Labor and local agencies, they had few options but to take things into their own hands.

This is a scene that is playing out on streets across the United States with increasing frequency, as two-thirds of low wage workers report some form of wage theft every week – whether that means being cheated out of  hours worked, paid less than the minimum wage, or not being paid at all.

One study estimates that low wage workers – over 30 million Americans - lose 15% of their income each year, the restaurant industry being one of the worst offenders. According to the Department of Labor, 84%  of sit-down restaurants inspected in the last three years were in violation of wage laws. Meanwhile, in Washington, the food services industry is an organized and powerful opponent against increased minimum wage and workplace protections, spending millions of dollars each year to lobby against regulations and increased wages.

In this episode, Fault Lines travels to Miami, Chicago, and Washington D.C. to speak with restaurant workers, hear their grievances, and find out what recourse they have when they are not paid what they are owed.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Mathieu Skene @matmountain CORRESPONDENT: Sebastian Walker @sebwalker PRODUCER: Sam Black @potter_black EDITOR: Jennifer Berman DP: Alfredo Delara, Timothy Wheeler, Omar Mullick ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Paul Abowd @paulabowd ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY: Robert Cherouny, Thierry Humeau, Nicole Salazar @nicoleasalazar, Zachary Stauffer, Joel Van Haren @joelvanharen TRANSLATION: Bryan Angarita, Sergio Ceballos, Kavitha Chekuru @kavichek (Twitter translation) RESEARCH & PRODUCTION ASSISTANCE: Yousur Alhou, Omar Duwaji @mideasternist, Jonathan Klett @jonathanklett, Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, Lauren Rosenfeld, Mark Scialla @markscialla

More From the Episode

Over the last three years, out of the nearly nine-thousand sit-down restaurants inspected by the Federal Department of Labor, an astonishing 84% were found to have violated wages laws.

From "Stolen Wages"

Fault Lines on Al Jazeera America


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