Pay Day loans with still too high a cap on interest.
They invited debt consolidation companies into Maryland even as it is known that they are riddled with fraud.
Banks that commit fraud openly on low-income people through fees to what is already living week to week. Example.....M and T Bank was charged with overdraft fraud by manipulation of processing transactions a few years ago. They paid a small fine with no admission of guilt and they are today doing the same fraud on low-income people.
Health care fraud has low-income people with ever increasing costs for unnecessary preventative care while they get no coverage for medical treatment. All disposable income now goes to health debt.
The City of Baltimore through open neglect charge city residents hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for water bills mistakenly and never give it back, I know someone personally who was overcharged $1,600 for water and for two years have contacted the city every way possible to get that money back....because you lose your house if not...AND THEY WILL NOT GIVE THE MONEY BACK AND THIS HAPPENS TO THOUSANDS OF RESIDENTS.
The Police Department has a policy of ticketing people for loitering at $100 each over and over knowing the homeless have no money making it impossible for them to get out of debt.
We all know that hiring in Baltimore has policy deliberately not hiring locals and instead bringing undocumented and labor from out of state to push wages below minimum wage making people unable to earn money.
Now, we all know that the poor are targeted by banks, by businesses, and by their own government to take money through fraud. THE FACT THAT THE CITY AND STATE ALLOWS THE COMMITTING OF FRAUD ON THE POOR IS THE PROBLEM WITH INDIVIDUALS HAVING DEBT IN BALTIMORE. There is no Rule of Law protecting people from being defrauded by business in Maryland so people constantly lose wealth as they get it. They are denied the right to work so they turn to crime to survive. Meanwhile, corporations getting tax breaks and grants that include hiring the underserved DON'T MEET CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS IN THAT AREA....THEY IGNORE THIS. THAT IS FRAUDULENT AS THEY ARE ACCEPTING MONEY UNDER FALSE PRETENSES.
How many times did I say corporate fraud and preying on low-income/poor residents of Maryland? So, we have a system where the debt is owed to society by corporations and government that steals from citizens. They are the debtors and they should be going to prison. The poor are the victims and they should be reimbursed. We are listening to a show talk about keeping the poor out of jail for debt and not once does anyone talk about the fact that the problem is with the businesses and government.
I did appreciate the Justice person on this show for talking about the failure of the poor to get due process and legal representation which if they could would identify all of the above and exonerate them.....that is probably why the poor cannot get legal representation. With billions of dollars stolen each year in Maryland in corporate fraud the State of Maryland had to cut spending on social welfare which included public defense lawyers. So, we have a law that looks to protect the poor from going to jail from debt but we have laws and policy that prey on the poor/working class making it impossible for them to be out of debt. Much of the money stolen from the poor is taxpayer safety net social service money and that is why the State of Maryland allows these thefts.
The solution to justice for people in debt is simply reinstating Rule of Law in Maryland. This means you must have an Attorney General who enforced Rule of Law and politicians who find it offensive when Rule of Law is not enforced. Maryland's democrats would be those pols but we have Third Way corporate democrats that work for wealth an d profits so they are the ones ignoring the crime and corruption.
Why should the middle class be concerned about this cycle of predatory finance against the poor and working class? It creates the conditions we have of crime and violence and it moves all of social service money from the people supposed to get it to the same people at the top of the income ladder refusing to hire locally and committing the fraud.
THIS IS WHAT A THIRD WORLD ECONOMY AND SOCIETY LOOKS LIKE! CRIME AND CORRUPTION THROUGHOUT BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT MAKING CITIZENS SO DESPERATE THEY HAVE TO COMMIT CRIMES TO SURVIVE.
Regarding the need for people in jail to pay their debts and for costs of incarceration:
This was a program that tried to justify having people who are sent to jail for committing crimes often because they could not find a job to support themselves or their families.....working for private prison contractors while in jail. GIVING PEOPLE WHO CANNOT GET A JOB A WAY TO EARN MONEY AFTER THEY ARE SENT TO JAIL. There is honestly no way to put lipstick on this pig. I was in the Baltimore Board of Estimates when they passed this and shouted the above loudly and strongly and they all hung their heads in shame. They have officially made slavery legal in Maryland! We know it has happened for decades by simply stealing worker's wages leaving them with little actual pay.....but this makes slavery official state law.
Let's be clear....unemployment for black residents in the city is above 50% and stealing and selling drugs is the black market available for income. WHEN A CITY MAKES ILLEGAL ACTIVITY THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE MONEY THEY HAVE FAILED. PEOPLE DO NOT BREAK INTO HOMES, PROSTITUTE THEMSELVES OR THEIR CHILDREN, SELL DRUGS IN MOST CASES BECAUSE THEY LIKE IT. THEY DO IT BECAUSE THEY CANNOT GET A JOB.
So, where does the city come up with the jobs for those incarcerated? They have given all the public sector jobs that many of those unemployed lost to private contractors to do for profit. Rather than pay a city employee to do this job, they pay a private contractor say $8 an hour to work this prisoner who gets paid $2 an hour from this contract. Six dollars an hour goes to that business for overseeing slave labor. Mind you, that prisoner is doing work like cleaning parks and other public works that a city employee used to do making middle-class wages with benefits.
THIS IS BIZARRE PEOPLE!
The lady supporting this policy says it is good for the prisoner to pay his/her way.....be responsible for his debt and costs of incarceration. IT BUILDS CHARACTER!!! Remember the crime and corruption that is systemic in government and businesses in Maryland .......THERE IS NO CHARACTER AT THE TOP OF THE LADDER! We hear republican states calling for all of this injustice so we want to be clear.....THE PEOPLE RUNNING AS DEMOCRATS IN MARYLAND ARE NOT DEMOCRATS ......THEY ARE THIRD WAY NEO-LIBERALS WHO USE PEOPLE TO MAKE WEALTH AND PROFIT. If you remember, the democratic party is the party of the people! See the difference....democrats would never have passed this kind of policy.
JUST VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE. DON'T ALLOW A THIRD WAY CORPORATE DNC CHOOSE YOUR CANDIDATES AND RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE!!!
Look at this article from a decade ago....you can bet that the democrats all said the republicans made us do it......now look below this article to see the Third Way corporate democrats doing it!
A GROWING TREND:
Fed Bill Would Allow More, and Cheaper, Prison Labor
by Carey Seal 2003
M AJOR NEWSPAPERS, The Sun included, have devoted much space to diatribes against Chinese industry’s use of prison labor. Coverage of prison labor in America, however, is sparse and superficial. Yet private industries’ subcontracting of manufacturing and service work to state prison agencies has almost imperceptibly become big business in the U.S., and new proposed federal legislation, if passed, will add federal prisons to the mix.
Wisconsin, Oregon, California, Tennessee, Kansas, Ohio, Nevada and Texas have been in the forefront of offering state prison labor to private industry. Some states are promoting their prison labor force to industry as an alternative to taking jobs overseas for cheap labor.
Prisoners are being employed as data entry clerks, telemarketers, circuit board assemblers, furniture or clothing makers, and order-takers, among other jobs. In a report published by the National Institute of Justice, Jeff Black, TWA’s director of area reservations, is quoted as saying, “We know that [prisoners trained as ticket-reservation agents] are not going to be late for work because of a traffic jam on the freeway. That kind of dependability is important to us.”
Prisoners do not retain all their earnings; fiscal arrangements differ from state to state. After federal and state taxes are withheld, somewhere between 41% and 80% of a prisoner’s wages is applied toward costs of incarceration; the balance may go toward support for prisoners’ families, victim compensation, prisoner “allowance,” and/or a savings account for the prisoner to access when leaving prison. The “allowance” is becoming more important as some state prison systems, strapped for cash, are requiring prisoners to make co-payments for medical care and prescriptions; in the state of Washington, prisoners are even charged a $10 UPS delivery fee to ship their belongings when they are transferred from one facility to another.
The corporations that employ the captive labor force typically pay the prison a fee per prisoner, further defraying costs of incarceration.
While work for private industry is usually performed inside the prison, minimum-security prisoners are being transported to factories outside the prison.
Though the income and on-the-job training offered through prison labor jobs appeals to many, critics of the practice say there aren’t enough restrictions to prevent abuses. In California, for example, if a prisoner refuses to work, he or she is moved to disciplinary housing and loses canteen privileges and “good time” credit toward reducing the length of his or her sentence.
Critics of the growing prison labor trend also say it has disturbing implications for workers “on the outside.” How can they compete with a captive workforce that receives no benefits and accepts low wages? The use of inmate labor, they say, is thus a question of workers’ rights as well as prisoners’ rights.
New Federal Legislation
If some members of the House of Representatives have their way, American workers will be thrown into even more direct competition with inmate labor. H.R. 2558, sponsored by Reps. McCollum (R.), Hyde (R.), and Scott (R.), would open federal prisons to contractual arrangements with for-profit corporations and allow the products produced to be sold freely on the open market. Under the terms of the proposed law, inmates could be paid less than the minimum wage if the industrial operation in question is deemed to be in competition with foreign rather than domestic business.
Companies contracting work to inmates would be required to continue employing their existing non-inmate U.S. employees, unless in the judgment of the Attorney General there are “exigent circumstances.”
Rep. Robert Ehrlich could not be reached for comment on the bill, and a member of Rep. Benjamin Cardin’s legislative staff said Mr. Cardin would not be taking a position on the bill until it emerges from the Judiciary Committee.
Prison Labor in Maryland
The private-sector-contracted prison labor industry is flourishing in Maryland. A firm called Powercon is now subcontracting work to the Hagerstown Correctional Facility’s metal shop, according to State Use Industries project administrator Cliff Benser. Mr. Benser said in a telephone interview that he has “four or five” new Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) Program projects in development; some may be operational as early as this month. He said he notifies the Maryland AFL-CIO about each project and said the union has never, to his recollection, raised objections. The AFL-CIO official who might have been able to confirm this statement was on vacation. Prison labor for profit is closely connected with another trend: the increasing abundance of private prisons operated for-profit on a contractual basis. For example, U.S. Technologies, Inc., one of the largest PIE contractors, now has an “exclusive arrangement” with Wackenhut Corrections Corp., a for-profit operator of private prisons, to contract work to Wackenhut-run prisons.
Also, building prisons and supplying their needs has become a huge U.S. growth industry. Long distance phone carriers are jockeying for contracts to install pay phones in prisons; prisoners have to call collect, and a single prison phone can gross $15,000 a year--five times more than a phone installed on the street.
History of U.S. Prison Labor
In 1885, three-quarters of U.S. prison inmates were working at jobs of some kind, with the majority laboring under prison contract or leasing arrangements with private employers. Protests of prisoners’ rights groups and organized labor and abuses of prison labor in the early part of this century prompted the federal government, in the 1930s, to restrict the transportation of prison-made goods across state lines and to set limits on the percentage of products federal agencies can procure from prison factories.
In 1979, however, the Justice System Improvement Act created the PIE certification program, which allowed state corrections departments to form “partnerships” with private firms and freed “certified” products made in prison factories from the earlier federal regulations governing prison-made goods. PIE rules stipulate that inmate workers be paid “local prevailing wages,” and that the interests of other parties that could be adversely affected be protected.
These PIE programs are now operational in prisons across the country--even in juvenile facilities such as the Gainesville State School in Texas.
Work for outside firms is supposed to be strictly voluntary; prison officials claim that inmates are eager to work for the corporations. This enthusiasm could stem from the fact that prisoners are awarded “good time” for working on PIE projects and thus are released earlier; thus the length of an inmate’s sentence can be tied to whether or not he or she cooperates with the for-profit work program.
Unlike the proposed new federal legislation, PIE operations are required to pay their workers minimum wage or the prevailing wage in the area for similar work, whichever is higher, and to consult with local labor organizations about the impact of the prison factory on local labor.
Proponents of allowing for-profit companies to use prison labor claim private enterprise can make prisoners more productive, and therefore later more employable, than can government-run prison work programs. Opponents, however, counter that it is immoral and unethical for private enterprise to make a profit from prison labor, and say that any proceeds should go toward such purposes as victim compensation and prisoner rehabilitation rather than to overpaid CEOs and stockholders.
The 13th amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. except for people convicted of a crime. “Legally allowing [criminals] to be subjected to slavery and involuntary servitude opened the door for mass criminalization,” wrote Julie Browne in her thesis, “The Labor of Doing Time.” Ms. Browne traces the development of the so-called “Black Codes,” known as the “Slave Codes” before the Civil War, as a way to re-enslave freed African-Americans by criminalizing behaviors more likely to be found among them than among whites. Critics point out that much of the increase in the prison population over the past two decades has come from the disproportionate criminalization of drug practices that are more common among African-Americans. This has resulted in a corresponding disproportionate increase in the number of African-American inmates available for cheap, and increasingly for-profit, prison labor.
Carey Seal is a senior at Gilman School. He will attend Yale University in the fall. Alice Cherbonnier also contributed to this article.
For those still believing Third Way corporate democrats who keep crying 'the republicans made us do it' we are seeing prison labor for profit in lots of 'democratic' states. You can always tell a Third Way corporate democratic state by prison labor for profit! Maryland led by O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore jumped on board the 'slavery' wagon!
The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor Years after ALEC's Truth In Sentencing bills became the law of the land, its Prison Industries Act has quietly expanded prison labor across the country.
Mike Elk and Bob Sloan August 1, 2011
About the Author Bob Sloan Bob Sloan is a former offender, Stop ALEC organizer and blogger who has spent the past decade researching the PIE... Mike Elk Mike Elk is a labor journalist and third-generation union organizer based in Washington, D.C.
Dave Zirin and Mike Elk The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”
Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies. But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its Prison Industries Act, and a little-known federal program known as PIE (the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program). While much has been written about prison labor in the past several years, these forces, which have driven its expansion, remain largely unknown.
Somewhat more familiar is ALEC’s instrumental role in the explosion of the US prison population in the past few decades. ALEC helped pioneer some of the toughest sentencing laws on the books today, like mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders, “three strikes” laws, and “truth in sentencing” laws. In 1995 alone, ALEC’s Truth in Sentencing Act was signed into law in twenty-five states. (Then State Rep. Scott Walker was an ALEC member when he sponsored Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing laws and, according to PR Watch, used its statistics to make the case for the law.) More recently, ALEC has proposed innovative “solutions” to the overcrowding it helped create, such as privatizing the parole process through “the proven success of the private bail bond industry,” as it recommended in 2007. (The American Bail Coalition is an executive member of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force.) ALEC has also worked to pass state laws to create private for-profit prisons, a boon to two of its major corporate sponsors: Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), the largest private prison firms in the country. An In These Times investigation last summer revealed that ALEC arranged secret meetings between Arizona’s state legislators and CCA to draft what became SB 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration law, to keep CCA prisons flush with immigrant detainees. ALEC has proven expertly capable of devising endless ways to help private corporations benefit from the country’s massive prison population.
That mass incarceration would create a huge captive workforce was anticipated long before the US prison population reached its peak—and at a time when the concept of “rehabilitation” was still considered part of the mission of prisons. First created by Congress in 1979, the PIE program was designed “to encourage states and units of local government to establish employment opportunities for prisoners that approximate private sector work opportunities,” according to PRIDE’s website. The benefits to big corporations were clear—a “readily available workforce” for the private sector and “a cost-effective way to occupy a portion of the ever-growing offender/inmate population” for prison officials—yet from its founding until the mid-1990s, few states participated in the program.
This started to change in 1993, when Texas State Representative and ALEC member Ray Allen crafted the Texas Prison Industries Act, which aimed to expand the PIE program. After it passed in Texas, Allen advocated that it be duplicated across the country. In 1995, ALEC’s Prison Industries Act was born.
This Prison Industries Act as printed in ALEC’s 1995 state legislation sourcebook, “provides for the employment of inmate labor in state correctional institutions and in the private manufacturing of certain products under specific conditions.” These conditions, defined by the PIE program, are supposed to include requirements that “inmates must be paid at the prevailing wage rate” and that the “any room and board deductions…are reasonable and are used to defray the costs of inmate incarceration.” (Some states charge prisoners for room and board, ostensibly to offset the cost of prisons for taxpayers. In Florida, for example, prisoners are paid minimum wage for PIE-certified labor, but 40 percent is taken out of their accounts for this purpose.)
The Prison Industries Act sought to change this, inventing the “private sector prison industry expansion account,” to absorb such deductions, and stipulating that the money should be used to, among other things: “construct work facilities, recruit corporations to participate as private sector industries programs, and pay costs of the authority and department in implementing [these programs].” Thus, money that was taken from inmate wages to offset the costs of incarceration would increasingly go to expanding prison industries. In 2000, Florida passed a law that mirrored the Prison Industries Act and created the Prison Industries Trust Fund, its own version of the private sector prison industry expansion account, deliberately designed to help expand prison labor for private industries.
The Prison Industries Act was also written to exploit a critical PIE loophole that seemed to suggest that its rules did not apply to prisoner-made goods that were not shipped across state lines. It allowed a third-party company to set up a local address in a state that makes prison goods, buy goods from a prison factory, sell those products locally or surreptitiously ship them across state borders. It helped that by 1995 oversight of the PIE program had been effectively squashed, transferred from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), a private trade organization that happened to be represented by Allen’s lobbying firm, Service House, Inc. In 2003, Allen became the Texas House Chairman of the Corrections Committee and began peddling the Prison Industries Act and other legislation beneficial to CCA and Geo Group, like the Private Correctional Facilities Act. Soon thereafter he became Chairman of ALEC’s Criminal Justice (now Public Safety and Elections) Task Force. He resigned from the state legislature in 2006 while under investigation for his unethical lobbying practices. He was hired soon after as a lobbyist for Geo Group.
Today’s chair of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task force is state Representative Jerry Madden of Texas, where the Prison Industries Act originated eighteen years ago. According to a 2010 report from NCIA, as of last summer there were "thirty jurisdictions with active [PIE] operations." These included such states as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and twelve more. Four more states are now looking to get involved as well; Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania have introduced legislation and New Hampshire is in the process of applying for PIE certification. Today these state’s legislation are based upon an updated version of the Prison Industries Act, which ALEC amended in 2004.
Prison labor has already started to undercut the business of corporations that don’t use it. In Florida, PRIDE has become one of the largest printing corporations in the state, its cheap labor having a significant impact upon smaller local printers. This scenario is playing out in states across the country. In addition to Florida's forty-one prison industries, California alone has sixty. Another 100 or so are scattered throughout other states. What's more, several states are looking to replace public sector workers with prison labor. In Wisconsin Governor Walker’s recent assault on collective bargaining opened the door to the use of prisoners in public sector jobs in Racine, where inmates are now doing landscaping, painting, and other maintenance work. According to the Capitol Times, “inmates are not paid for their work, but receive time off their sentences.” The same is occurring in Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia, all states with GOP Assembly majorities and Republican governors. Much of ALEC’s proposed labor legislation, implemented state by state is allowing replacement of public workers with prisoners.
“It’s bad enough that our companies have to compete with exploited and forced labor in China,” says Scott Paul Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a coalition of business and unions. “They shouldn’t have to compete against prison labor here at home. The goal should be for other nations to aspire to the quality of life that Americans enjoy, not to discard our efforts through a downward competitive spiral.”
Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, says prison labor is part of a “confluence of similar interests” among politicians and corporations, long referred to as the “prison industrial complex.” As decades of model legislation reveals, ALEC has been at the center of this confluence. “This has been ongoing for decades, with prison privatization contributing to the escalation of incarceration rates in the US,” Friedmann says. Just as mass incarceration has burdened American taxpayers in major prison states, so is the use of inmate labor contributing to lost jobs, unemployment and decreased wages among workers—while corporate profits soar.
All these are WELCOME in Maryland. How do you create a pipeline to prison and prison labor? You allow people to be preyed upon for all they have. Think gambling is a good revenue source? Who will end up in prison from gambling addiction?
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WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY ALLOWS PEOPLE TO BECOME PREY FOR PROFITS? EACH STATE HAS THE POWER TO STOP THIS PRACTICE OR TO NOT ALLOW BUSINESSES IN THE STATE THAT DO THIS, BUT IN THIRD WAY CORPORATE DEMOCRATIC STATES......THE WELCOME SHINGLE IS OUT TO PREDATION.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE AND RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE!
Eight states do not have specific payday lending statutory provisions and/or require lenders to comply with interest rate caps on consumer loans: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia.
Predatory lending is the unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices of some lenders during the loan origination process. While there are no legal definitions in the United States for predatory lending, an audit report on predatory lending from the office of inspector general of the FDIC broadly defines predatory lending as "imposing unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers." Though there are laws against many of the specific practices commonly identified as predatory, various federal agencies use the phrase as a catch-all term for many specific illegal activities in the loan industry. Predatory lending should not be confused with predatory mortgage servicing which is the unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices of lenders and servicing agents during the loan or mortgage servicing process, post loan origination.
One less contentious definition of the term is "the practice of a lender deceptively convincing borrowers to agree to unfair and abusive loan terms, or systematically violating those terms in ways that make it difficult for the borrower to defend against." Other types of lending sometimes also referred to as predatory include payday loans, certain types of credit cards, mainly subprime, or other forms of (again, often subprime) consumer debt, and overdraft loans, when the interest rates are considered unreasonably high. Although predatory lenders are most likely to target the less educated, the poor, racial minorities, and the elderly, victims of predatory lending are represented across all demographics.
Predatory lending typically occurs on loans backed by some kind of collateral, such as a car or house, so that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can repossess or foreclose and profit by selling the repossessed or foreclosed property. Lenders may be accused of tricking a borrower into believing that an interest rate is lower than it actually is, or that the borrower's ability to pay is greater than it actually is. The lender, or others as agents of the lender, may well profit from repossession or foreclosure upon the collateral.
'Wage theft' prevails in post-recession economy Employers sidestep wage and labor laws to pay workers less than owed
Elvira Orellana, 41, from El Salvador, sits on the couch at her home in Salisbury, Md. Orellana sued her former boss at a convenient store in Princess Anne, Md., for violations of fair act wages and labor laws, later winning a judgement of $18,000. (Gabriella Demczuk, Baltimore Sun / July 10, 2012)
By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun 7:44 p.m. EST, February 2, 2013
Behind the counter at a convenience store in Princess Anne, Elvira Orellana worked 72 hours a week, making sandwiches, cleaning the kitchen and ordering the ingredients to prepare oxtail, curry chicken and cheese steaks.
Her employer paid her $648 a week — $324 less than she was owed under laws that require that workers earn time and a half for clocking more than 40 hours a week. When she complained, Orellana said, her boss threatened to cut her wages and then fired her.
Orellana's case, which she won in federal court, illustrates a problem that historically has been more pronounced in the wake of recessions. Since the most recent downturn, worker advocates and law enforcement officials say, a growing number of employers have violated wage and labor laws enacted 75 years ago in response to worker mistreatment prevalent during the Depression.
Employers in this floundering economy have increasingly denied workers benefits and mandatory overtime pay, according to worker advocates. Some have doctored time sheets and even failed to pay minimum wage. The practice is widespread in low-wage jobs such as waiting tables or cleaning hotel rooms but has been bleeding into middle-class professions, they say.
And studies show that victims can lose up to 20 percent of their earnings due to what those advocates call "wage theft."
Lawsuits alleging wage and labor law violations have skyrocketed, and state and federal officials have beefed up scrutiny. The U.S. Department of Labor has hired 300 more investigators. Maryland's labor department formed a new unit dedicated to wage law enforcement. And state lawmakers are drafting legislation to provide new protections to cheated workers.
The business community has opposed some legislative measures but contends that it supports strong enforcement of the laws because by underpaying employees scofflaws introduce false competition into the market. Business groups also say recession and its lingering effects left many employers, especially mom-and-pop operations, cutting back while struggling to stay in business.
Tallying the extent of wage law violations is difficult. Many workers are grateful to have work in a tight job market and too scared to speak up, said Catherine Ruckelshaus, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project.
Speaking up can be "job suicide," Ruckelshaus said. "There are 10 people waiting in line to take your job. Oftentimes, workers grin and bear it."
Orellana, a native of El Salvador, said she didn't speak up for months, wary of someone taking advantage of her as an immigrant. But then she learned about her rights by asking questions of a fellow churchgoer with connections to the Baltimore-based Legal Aid Bureau, which eventually represented her.
"I felt completely desperate," Orellana, 41, said through a translator. She recalled that a friend encouraged her to fight. "She told me not to be quiet, to learn to defend myself, to keep going forward, to not be afraid."
The Salisbury woman won an $18,000 civil judgment for unpaid overtime in U.S. District Court, but the judge found that she had failed to prove a claim of retaliation.
Representatives of her former employer, Cienna Properties LLC, did not respond to requests for comment.
Aggrieved workers can take their cases either to law enforcement or to civil court.
The number of lawsuits alleging employer violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act has more than tripled in the past decade, according to an annual study released by Seyfarth Shaw, a law firm that specializes in labor and employment law. More than 7,000 lawsuits were filed from March 2011 to March 2012, up from 2,035 for the same period in 2002.
Meanwhile, U.S. Labor Department investigators collected more than $280 million in back wages last year, nearly $100million more than investigators recovered four years earlier as the recession was getting under way. More than two dozen federal investigators based in Baltimore, who oversee a multistate region, recovered $8.7million in wages last year, compared with $7.1million in 2008.
"We're here to make sure the people in the states of Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia are getting paid, getting paid properly, legally and on time — when it's payday," said Mark Lara, district director for the Baltimore office. "That's an extremely important job in my opinion, and my staff understands that."
Maryland investigators, who have lesser enforcement powers than federal counterparts, recovered nearly $3.7 million in lost wages over the past five years, including a high of more than $884,000 in 2011. The state has also teamed up with the federal government, coordinating efforts and sharing information to take a more active role in uncovering wage and labor law violations.
The U.S. Labor Department has launched an initiative to crack down on businesses that wrongly classify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime and benefits, and has signed an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to share information to stop worker misclassification.
Economy in Baltimore, Maryland - Best Places to Live ...www.bestplaces.net/economy/city/maryland/baltimore
The unemployment rate in Baltimore, MD, is 9.30%, with job growth of 0.47%. Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 31.64%.
Look at how Maryland falsifies its unemployment figures and just prints what it wants to print. No one believes unemployment is 9.3% in Baltimore! Below you see that these unemployment figures, which come from DLLR and the number of people getting benefits.....
SEE WHY MARYLAND'S DLLR HEAD IS NOW SECRETARY OF LABOR......PEREZ.
ONLY 34% OF UNEMPLOYED GET BENEFITS:
State’s Unemployment Benefits Among Lowest
Special to The Chronicle
Maryland’s unemployment insurance benefits, a safety net for workers who have been fired or laid off, rank in the bottom third of the nation—between Alabama and Mississippi—according to a new report released by the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute on Feb. 27.
“Maryland is generally perceived as this high-tax, high-spending state that supports government social programs in spades,” says Patrick Lester, senior policy analyst for the institute, a nonprofit research group that analyzes the state budget and tax issues. “But it’s not true. When it comes to unemployment insurance—who gets it and how much they get—we’re well behind the rest of the country.”
The report, “Maryland Unemployment Insurance: Underfunded and Out of Date,” was prepared with financial support from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore.
Unemployment insurance, enacted by Congress during the Great Depression, provides temporary relief to workers who have been laid off, fired or quit for good cause as defined by a state’s rules. Employers pay program “premiums’’ or “unemployment insurance,” and each state determines who is eligible and how much each applicant receives.
Among the report’s findings:
- While 43 percent of the nation’s unemployed receive benefits, the rate is just 34 percent in Maryland.
- Maryland’s average unemployment benefit is $241.57 per week, falling near the bottom of benefits nationwide, which range from $205 per week in Arizona to $496 per week in Washington State.
- Maryland provides additional benefits to unemployed workers with children, but this is capped at just $8 per child per week.
- Twenty-four states provide at least partial benefits to part-time workers. Maryland provides none.
“Unemployment is considered a badge of shame for most people,” said Deborah Povich, executive director of the Jobs Opportunities Task Force. “Nobody announces they’re ‘unemployed.’ They say they’re ‘between jobs.’ Consequently, advocacy groups are not doing enough to represent their interests.”
The institute supports policies that would:
- Extend benefits to part-time workers, currently deemed ineligible in Maryland;
- Raise the additional benefits per child from $8 to $25 per week;
- Extend benefits to workers who have been on the job at least three months, rather than the current six- to nine-month requirement.
The Maryland General Assembly shares the concerns enumerated in the report. It is currently considering several bills that would make unemployment benefits more broadly available and extend them to part-time workers. It also is considering an increase in the weekly benefit for unemployed workers with children to $25 per child.