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Subminimum Wages

What do Cambodia and the U.S. have in common? One thing is the low pay paid to some of their workers. About 100,000 Cambodian workers are fighting for $160 pay a month, at this time they receive $100 a month, and workers say they cannot survive on this. This fight affects about 600,000 workers at 800 different plants. The 100,000 workers are in the street fighting for their co-workers, but you might be surprised to know that in the U.S. there are more than 200,000 workers making 22, 38 or 41 cents an hour. According to the USA Labor Department’s wage and labor division, there are around 2,000 certified employers paying more than 300,000 workers subminimum wages. One of the employers is the Goodwill Industries, a multibillion dollar nonprofit business that pays its disabled employees the low wages. These chump change wages are allowed under a Depression-era law, Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, employers can apply for a special wage certificate allowing them to hire people with disabilities at a subminimum wage, while simultaneously paying their top executives six-figure salaries. This law allows the employers to set up “sheltered workshops” with no bottom limit to hourly wages for disabled workers. This is an assault on labor and human dignity. One person related a story about how, after she got a job, she was going to take her family out to dinner with her first paycheck, but her first paycheck was only 38 cents. I guess the GOP anti-worker Dream is coming true—pay workers nothing. The workers of Cambodia and the U.S. can either fight for what’s fair and just or sit back and envy the $26.7 billion paid in bonuses by Wall Street firms, making 2013 the most lucrative year for financial sector workers since the 2008 financial meltdown.

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