Wage theft refers to a category of workplace violations that result in employees not being fully or properly compensated for their services. This can include not paying overtime hours, withholding checks after termination, tax misclassification, and paying below minimum wage, amongst other methods.
Wage theft affects workers in a variety of industries, though most commonly those that pay low wages and lack unions to enforce workers’ rights. Because of this, employees are usually left with few options for recourse. Often, speaking out or reporting violations will be met with retaliation from their employer and the threat of job loss.
Populations victimized by wage theft often feel helpless and ignored not only in the workplace, but also in their greater community, and often withdraw from participating in local politics and organizations, discouraging entire populations from action.
We spent several months with Arise Chicago, a workers’ rights advocacy organization on the city’s North side, getting to know the people who work there, the people who come there for help, and the stories on both sides.