Major corporations are incredibly greedy bastards and capitalism is no friend to low wage workers (or really to any worker). The New York Times has an article highlighting the experiences of Jannette Navarro, a single mother who worked at Starbucks and was often put through fluctuating hours only known a couple days in advance. Glen Johnson told his story of barely making pulling things together while working just under full time at a Burger King and how his wages don’t even begin to cover many things. Joseph A. Domino wrote about his experiences with the corporatization of higher education while working as an adjunct professor.
Personally, I feel like there’s a severe lack of education around what rights you have as a worker because then corporations and business are generally more able to take advantage of your ignorance. If you don’t know what you have for rights, how can you advocate for yourself? Like the fact that policies calling for pay secrecy and for you to not discuss your pay to other workers are often illegal and misunderstood.
But it’s not just ignorance on the behalf of some – it’s more so the incredible greed and cost cutting practices of corporations that cause many to be classified as working poor. The systemic and institutional disregard for the poor from the most powerful and corporate is the truly awful part of this entire situation. (I want to clarify that I fully support workers and have an intense hatred for major corporations and capitalism in general. I blame any ignorance held by workers by corporate policies to keep workers ignorant.)
As far as legislation and legal protections, there are so many different policies and statues in place on both a federal and state level that often call for the rights of workers. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has a list of administrative policies (revised codes and administrative codes) that impact workers, including minimum wage, how to compute overtime, and meal and rest periods.
And for resources, the US Department of Labor has an extensive list of resources, including summaries of major laws from the department and a ton of information regarding many different aspects of wages. The Department of Labor also has resources for the safety of every workplace – the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 (OHSA) was passed so that employees and workers had the right to a safe work place. OSHA covers private sector, and state/local/federal government workers and highlights the rights workers have regarding injuries or dangerous situations (including the fact that you cannot be punished or discriminated against for using your OSHA rights).
To file complaints, get some help, and other resources:
- Department of Labor – How to File a Complaint
- OSHA – Filing a Whistleblower Complaint (being discriminated or punished for using your rights highlighted by OSHA)
- Washington Law Help- Employment/Farm Worker Rights