HourVoice is the proud instigator of SB1720, the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act, that’s recently been introduced by State Senator Dan Biss, and sponsored by State Reps Lisa Hernandez and Carol Ammons. The bill is actively supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, thanks to efforts of our good friend Zach Koutsky.

Why This Bill

This bill increases penalties on repeat and willful wage theft committed by employers. If you’re an HourVoice follower, you know that wage theft – where workers don’t get properly paid for all their work – is an enormous problem, estimated to cost Americans as much as $50 billion a year. One study conducted in the Chicago area suggests that wage theft could be a billion-dollar issue for Illinois.

If low-wage workers were paid that billion dollars they earned, they would spend it, pumping that money into the Illinois economy. That’s a one-billion dollar stimulus package for the state. Tax free. Annually.

Right now, however, wage theft is just a simple misdemeanor, and only requires employers – if caught – to repay the money they stole. Given that most wage theft doesn’t get reported, let alone prosecuted, this isn’t a deterrent. It actually pays for employers to cheat their workers. Not cool, and dumb policy.

This lack of deterrence also means that responsible employers who pay their workers are undercut by the cheaters. That makes Illinois a less attractive place for companies to do business in, meaning that Governor Rauner, you should also like this bill.

So, SB1720 helps workers, taxpayers, and responsible businesses. And pumps a ton of money into the Illinois economy.

Getting specific, the bill makes wage theft under $5,000 a Class 4 felony, and wage theft over $5,000 a Class 3 felony. It also bars those companies from winning state contracts for five years. For perspective, someone who steals an iPhone is guilty of a Class 3 felony. For the full text of the bill, go to the Illinois General Assembly site.

How You Can Help

  • Go to FightingWageTheft.org and click on the Take Action button. Enter your address, then we’ll tell you who your State Rep and Senator are, and show you a draft letter you can modify and send to them. The letter will also go to Governor Rauner.
  • If you’re a Facebook fan, go to the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft page, then Like and Follow us. Maybe even Post and Share your reason for supporting this bill.
  • The bill even has a Twitter account, @ILWageTheftAct. Follow us, and we’ll let you know how the bill progresses.

The Illinois Fighting Wage Act should be a no-brainer. Let’s make sure.