The Jobs, Economic Development, and Energy omnibus budget bill will include provisions to make wage theft a felony, penalizing employers who retaliate against employees who report it.
The bill also provides funding and investigative power so that MN Attorney General Keith Ellison and the Department of Labor can enforce the new law.
The new wage theft provisions are a resounding victory for the worker advocacy organizations who led the fight to hold employers accountable.
Following the news, the Minnesota Coalition to End Wage Theft released the following statement.
“With the agreement reached this week, Minnesota law will finally say that theft is theft, no matter who you are. Systemic imbalances of power in the workplace lead to the fact that women, people of color, and immigrants are disproportionately impacted by wage theft. Minnesota lawmakers are now addressing the wage theft crisis by passing one of the strongest laws in the nation. As lead House author Rep. Tim Mahoney said, ‘this goes further than any other state’ in addressing wage theft.”
“By making wage theft a criminal felony offense and broadening the state’s power to prosecute, more working Minnesotans will get the justice they deserve. We still have work to do, including getting more resources for the Attorney General to investigate and enforce civil and criminal wage theft, but today, we celebrate this historic step forward.”
“It gives us hope because we’re being taken seriously,” said Nely Bautista, (Quoted in the Star-Tribune) a wage theft victim and member of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha, a labor advocacy group in Minneapolis. “This change comes from us, the workers. I’m happy because this is going to benefit a lot of people. We are going to be able to work more confidently with the knowledge that the law protects us.”
The Coalition to End Wage Theft includes: Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), Centro Campesino, Fair Contracting Foundation, Greater Minnesota Worker Center, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 82, Labor Education Service, University of Minnesota, LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota, The Advocates for Human Rights, Minnesota AFL-CIO, Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, Minnesota Nurses Association, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Minnesota SMART – TD, Northern States Regional Council of Carpenters, Restaurant Opportunities Center United of Minnesota, St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, SEIU Minnesota State Council, SEIU 284, SMART-TD, Teamsters Local 120, UNITE HERE Local 17