Wage Thieves in the Private Sector

August 20, 2011

Tom Carter, the author of China: Portrait of a People, sent me a link to a forum on political and social change in China that I found interesting. The forum was published in the Boston Review.

One in particular that I agreed with was China’s Other Revolution by Edward S. Steinfeld.

Steinfeld points out that “patterns of inequity are unfortunately not unique to the Chinese experience”, and then he makes a strong point when he writes, “One need look no further than the United States and Western Europe for developmental histories replete with exploitation, abuse, violence, and environmental degradation.”

By coincidence, the same day Carter sent me the link to this forum in the Boston Review, I read Wage theft a scourge for low-income workers by John Coté, a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

It seems while many Americans and the Western media often criticize China for exploitation of migrants, low-skilled wage laborers, and the rural poor, the same practice is alive and well in the United States.

Coté writes, “It’s part of a national scourge known as wage theft. More than two-thirds of low-wage workers (in the United States) reported some type of pay-related law violation…”

The piece Coté wrote for SFGate was on two pages and ends with six facts.  One says, “$56.4 million is stolen every week from (low-wage) workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.”

In addition, Poverty News reports, “Low-wage workers in the United States are gripped by increasing financial insecurity as they inch along an economic tightrope made riskier by pervasive job losses and rising prices. Many struggle to pay for life’s basics—housing, food and health care—and most report having virtually no financial cushion should they stumble.”

How many Americans are considered low-wage workers?

According to the Sloan Work and Family Research Network at Boston College, “The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2008, 39.8 million people (13.2 percent of the U.S. population) lived at or below the Federal Poverty Level (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2009).”

When it comes to poverty, America ranks 3rd worst among developed nations.

If two-thirds of these low-wage workers (and there may be more) in the U.S. are being cheated, that is about 26 million people that are not being paid what they earned.

It seems to me that the American media, the nation’s leaders and most Americans should focus on solving these types of problems in the U.S. before criticizing other countries.

Discover more from The India, China battle to eliminate poverty and illiteracy


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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