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Indiana, which had already eliminated most collective bargaining rights for state employees in 2006, adopted new legislation that prohibits even voluntary agreements with state employee unions.6 7 Note: This figure does not take account of states that enacted laws concerning public employees' wages and benefits, restrictions on public employees' union dues deductions, or restrictions on teachers' rights to tenure or seniority.In the case of Maine, the state legislature passed laws restricting the collective bargaining rights of certain private-sector employees who are covered under state labor law (see endnotes 3 and 4 for more detail).By far the most galvanizing and most widely reported legislative battle of the past two years was Wisconsin Gov.Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” that, in early 2011, largely eliminated collective bargaining rights for the state’s 175,000 public employees.1 Following this, in 20: The champions of anti-union legislation often portrayed themselves as the defenders of non-union workers—whom they characterized as hard-working private-sector taxpayers being forced to pick up the tab for public employees’ lavish pay and pensions.
This policy agenda undercuts the ability of low- and middle-wage workers, both union and non-union, to earn a decent wage.Thus, the only means for seeking enforcement under current law is for employees to turn to the Legal Aid Society, which relies entirely on volunteer attorneys.179 In 2010, Miami-Dade County responded to this crisis by instituting the nation’s first broad municipal wage theft law.Enforcement is carried out by the Department of Small Business Administration through a streamlined process similar to small claims courts; employers pay the costs of county hearings—thus enforcement is costless to taxpayers—and employees are entitled to recover up to double damages.Yet in that same year, the Ohio House adopted a budget that would cut the workplace enforcement budget by 25 percent over the next two years.170 Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley likewise called for the complete elimination of funding for the state’s nine labor investigators.171 In 2010, Missouri’s labor department collected 0,000 in restitution for minimum-wage violations and 0,000 for prevailing-wage violations, and issued 1,714 citations for child-labor violations.172 Yet Tilley charged that investigators were being “overzealous,” particularly in prosecuting complaints of employers cheating on prevailing wages.173 Ultimately, Tilley compromised with the state’s Democratic governor, and the adopted budget eliminated only two of the Division of Labor Standards’ nine investigators rather than the entire staff.174 In either case, meager enforcement staff means there is little meaningful protection for employees’ rights under law. Department of Labor investigation found that one-third of employers who had previously violated wage and hour laws continued to do so.175 The Progressive States Network—a national organization of state legislators—has identified the key elements of effective policy for combating wage theft.Indeed, because the enforcement mechanisms are so weak and the penalties for stealing wages are generally so modest, even employers who have been found guilty and forced to pay penalties for wage theft are often undeterred from continuing these practices. These include requirements that employers keep detailed pay records and allow employees to receive a thorough explanation of how each paycheck was calculated; the right of state authorities to inspect employers’ records; workers’ private right of action to sue for unpaid wages as individuals or in class actions; protection of complainants against retaliation by their employers; and the provision of attorney fees, damages, and penalties as part of the enforcement process.176 Yet corporate lobbies have been working hard to prohibit enforcement mechanisms such as these.