Martha: no more illegal deductions

Martha Macias is an example of a worker who has had her wages stolen for the last three years. Martha worked at a neighborhood lotto deli. She is a mother of two and lives in an area where the bad economy has hit hard. Many see themselves as lucky to have jobs even if those jobs are not paying them for all their work. For Martha it became an issue of respect.

Her boss started taking money from their paycheck if they were off on the till. Once Martha was off roughly $6 and he deducted from her paycheck. She confronted him and he responded with “I don’t like to lose money.”

It was then that it clicked for Martha and she responded in kind. “I don’t like to lose money either and I am working 84 hours in an 80 hour pay period and I’m working those extra hours for free.”

Not paying workers for time they have worked outside their scheduled time even if its just 10 or 15 minutes is wage theft. Unfortunately, wage theft is pervasive in Oregon and it mostly affects low wage earners.

Martha Macias is an example of a worker who has had her wages stolen for the last three years. Martha worked at a neighborhood lotto deli. She is a mother of two and lives in an area where the bad economy has hit hard. Many see themselves as lucky to have jobs even if those jobs are not paying them for all their work. For Martha it became an issue of respect.  Her boss started taking money from their paycheck if they were off on the till. Once Martha was off roughly $6 and he deducted from her paycheck. She confronted him and he responded with “I don’t like to lose money.” It was then that it clicked for Martha and she responded in kind. “I don’t like to lose money either and I am working 84 hours in an 80 hour pay period and I’m working those extra hours for free.”

As the cashier for a lotto deli she handles a lot of money and runs the risk of being robbed. In fact the deli has been robbed multiple times, twice while Martha was on the clock. The second burglary was the last straw for Martha. The assailant punched her in the face twice and threatened her at gunpoint. Her employer’s response was to ask how much money was missing. He did not ask if she was okay, or if she needed anything. It was clear to Martha that she was being mistreated and quit the same day.

However, Martha did not want to give away her lost wages. She went over her pay stubs and calculated how much she was owed in unpaid time and reached out to community members for support in confronting her employer.  Over 30 people showed up to support Martha and they marched over to the office of her former employer and delivered a letter. They letter stated how much she was owed and a date when they expected to hear back from the employer.

The next day Martha received a phone call from her former boss who was not happy with her actions. He threatened to call the police if they returned and claimed that she did not have any proof. However, Martha held strong and said she would be moving forward with her fight if he did not pay. A couple days later Martha received a call from her boss’ lawyer asking her to stop by the office to pick up a check. Martha had won.

For Martha it was not solely about the money. “It was never just about the money. It’s about the principal. It’s my money, its my right. I should be getting paid what I’m owed. The same goes for the other 25 employees.” When one worker stands up it changes the entire workplace. All the workers at Martha’s former workplace are now getting paid for that half hour they used to work for free.

“I feel like I set a good example. I feel all these workers are getting paid the hours they are supposed to get paid because I took a stand for myself.”

Workers in Oregon don’t have to accept wage theft as part of the job. Workers can stand up and fight for what they are owed and win. If you’re experiencing wage theft call Portland Solidarity Network at (503) 345-7831, together we can end wage theft.

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