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WI Manufacturers’ Lobby Opposes New Wage Bill Because “Most Wage Claims are Without Merit”

WMC wage theft

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Currently before the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform is a bill, SB 5, that would increase penalties for employers who illegally withhold wages from their workers.  Yes, the recently notorious anti-worker legislature of Wisconsin is considering a wage theft measure. Unfortunately, the likely players are taking their likely sides.  

SB 5 is moving forward with support from unions and worker groups.  Speaking to Wisconsin Public Radio, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO’s Stephanie Bloomingdale said the bill would help “level the playing field for low wage workers.”

“Criminal behavior like stealing workers’ wages should be codified into law,” she added. “Increasing workers’ legal rights to their hard-earned pay is commonsense legislation.”

As written, SB 5 would not only increase penalties for wage theft but would make it easier for workers to win claims they file with the state.  This is accomplished by extending the statute of limitations, allowing surcharges and interests to be included in a judgement, and allowing a circuit court to require offenders to pay the victim’s reasonable costs and attorney fees.  

The legislation is opposed by business groups such as the Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce, whose lobbyist James Buchen testified that increased penalties would only encourage unscrupulous lawyers to “drag out wage claim lawsuits to game the system.”  Buchen added that “most wage claims are without merit” and that “companies have gone bankrupt and simply don’t have the money to pay.”  Buchen was quoted by WPR as saying, “No amount of statutes (is) going to change the fact that there’s sometimes no money — there’s simply no assets to get after.”

Tone deaf much?


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