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Report: Labor Laws Systemically Flaunted

Laws mean little if not enforced. That is the premise of a study published this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law that documents a pervasive workplace culture of noncompliance with basic wage, hour and safety laws. So extensive is this disregard of labor and employment law, argue the authors, that it threatens to become an established way of doing business in the United States.

Based on three years of research and more than 300 interviews, the report, Unregulated Work in the Global City, examines conditions in New York City. But the conditions they describe, the authors contend, exist throughout the U.S. economy.

"In this report, we describe a world of work that lies outside the experience and imagination of many Americans. It is a world where jobs pay less than the minimum wage, and sometimes nothing at all; where employers do not pay overtime for 60-hour weeks, and deny meal breaks that are required by law; where vital health and safety regulations are routinely ignored, even after injuries occur; and where workers are subject to blatant discrimination, and retaliated against for speaking up or trying to organize.

"Such conditions exist here in New York City, in occupations and industries that span the breadth of the city’s economy. They are not isolated, short-lived cases of exploitation at the fringe of the city’s economy. Instead, the systematic violation of our country’s core employment and labor laws – what we call 'unregulated work' – is threatening to become a way of doing business for unscrupulous employers. And yet from the standpoint of public policy, these jobs (and the workers who hold them) are too often off the radar screen."

The report was written by Annette Bernhardt, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Justice Program; Siobhan McGrath, former Brennan Center research associate; and James De Filippis, assistant professor of black and Hispanic studies at Baruch College. Based on their findings, they call on federal and state governments to strengthen the labor laws and their enforcement of those laws and to provide equal protection to immigrants in the workplace.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 22, 2007 at 05:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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