PIONEER VALLEY WORKERS CENTER LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO SUPPORT AMHERST WAGE THEFT BYLAW

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Seeks Support For Petition Drive

Source: Pioneer Valley Workers Center

Background
Wage theft is a growing crisis across the country and state. In Massachusetts alone an estimated $700 million is stolen from workers every year. It affects many industries but is particularly problematic in the construction and service industries. Wage theft can take many different forms, including when workers are misclassified as independent contractors, paid cash wages, not paid overtime or for all the hours they worked, paid in lump sums for a week’s work regardless of the hours worked, and sometimes not paid at all. 

The goal of the proposed Amherst bylaw is to ensure Amherst is not using public funds (through contracts or tax relief), or granting business licenses, to companies with a history of wage theft abuse. Workers should be paid properly and be protected. Companies and contractors that “play by the rules” (pay employees properly, pay taxes, and provide worker’s compensation) should not have to compete against companies that have been known to have violated wage and hour rules. The proposed bylaw is based on successful municipal wage theft ordinances now in place in Northampton, Easthampton, Springfield, and cities across the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the different dangers many low wage jobs pose for workers and the fragile economic positions they are often in. As less work is available and an increasing number of workers grow more desperate for paychecks, it is even more important to shine a light on the problem of wage theft and to work to deter it from happening.

The proposed bylaw for Amherst has been approved by the Town Services and Outreach Committee and will next be taken up by the Government, Organization and Legislation Committee, which will formulate recommendations before the bylaw comes before the full Town Council for a vote. A full copy of the bylaws draft and FAQ can be found here. An updated bylaws summary is available here.  

Actions
The Pioneer Valley Workers Center (PVWC) is organizing education about and actions in support of the bylaw.  Supporters of the bylaw can help in the following ways:

  1. Sign the petition in support of the wage theft bylaw, and pass it on! Even if you aren’t an Amherst resident you can sign this petition showing your support.
  2. Residents of Amherst, may also sign up to support the bylaw here and are asked to contact their city councilors to urge them to pass the bylaw and keep the enforcement mechanism in place that gives this law teeth.
  3. Forward this article to friends and family in Amherst and ask them to join the effort!

PVWC expressed its gratitude to Amherst Town Councilors Mandi Jo Hanneke, Pat De Angelis and Cathy Schoen for their leadership in drafting the bylaw. 

Questions should be directed to Margaret Sawyer at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center (margaret@pvworkerscenter.org) or Lisa Clauson at the Carpenters Union (lclauson@nasclmp.org).

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