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CO Workers Stand Up Against Wage Theft

November 19, 2009

DENVER, Colo. - Imagine working a full day, week or even longer - only to have your employer skip town with your paycheck. It's something that's happened to thousands of workers in Colorado and today religious leaders, workers, public officials and others in Denver and across the country are holding events to draw attention to the problem of wage theft.

Jesus Orrantia, program director for El Centro Humanitario para los Trabajadores in Denver, says it's something that's started to happen to all sorts of people, not just day laborers.

"One of our biggest cases was an African American woman, so it's happening to all walks of life, not just immigrants."

Orrantia's small organization alone has heard of over $700,000 worth of wage theft in the past few years. He estimates there may be three to four times that amount taking place that hasn't been reported to them just in metro Denver, and even more across the state.

"Workers are strung along, balances are left over, and when the job is done, they're owed thousands of dollars."

Rev. Daniel Klawitter, religious outreach organizer with FRESC, says new legislation to address wage theft is a good start.

"It does away with the statute of limitations that currently limits the Department of Labor to just two years to resolve a wage complaint. This would give workers a little bit longer time to resolve their claims."

The national network Interfaith Worker Justice has declared today the National Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft, and community events are taking place in 40 cities across the country, including Denver, where a rally is tentatively planned outside the offices of what organizers call a known exploiter of day laborers. At an event in Washington, D.C., new federal legislation will be highlighted that aims to stop wage theft.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO