Miguel: “Don’t be afraid to claim what’s yours”

When an employer contacted him to power wash the exterior of some apartments and do some painting, Miguel was glad to do the work. He recruited a friend to help and decided to split the $600 wage he’d been offered for the job.

Miguel and his partner completed the work and had it reviewed by the employer. The employer was happy with the work and promised to pay them the next day. However, the employer did not pay him the next day or the day after. Miguel tried calling the employer, but he made excuses and ultimately stopped answering any calls.

“When someone doesn’t pay you, it’s like they are making fun of you. They can do whatever they want with you and it’s not right.” – Miguel Angel

Work has been sporadic for Miguel Angel. He currently contracts as a painter and power washer. Like many Oregonians he struggles to support his family and he is making do with whatever employment he can get. The bad economy has left many workers without a lot of options and he is happy to work whenever he can find it.

When an employer contacted him to power wash the exterior of some apartments and do some painting, Miguel was glad to do the work. He recruited a friend to help and decided to split the $600 wage he’d been offered for the job.

Miguel and his partner completed the work and had it reviewed by the employer. The employer was happy with the work and promised to pay them the next day. However, the employer did not pay him the next day or the day after. Miguel tried calling the employer, but he made excuses and ultimately stopped answering any calls.

“When someone doesn’t pay you, it’s like they are making fun of you. They can do whatever they want with you and it’s not right.” – Miguel Angel

Wage theft occurs when an employer denies legally required breaks, does not pay overtime where necessary, wrongly withholds tips or flat out refuses to pay an employee for work they’ve done.

Wage theft is prevalent in Oregon and it not only affects individuals but entire communities. When workers don’t get paid for their work it not only keeps them from feeding their families and paying their bills, but also lowers the amount of money they can spend in the community, further stalling the economy.

“I believe that all workers need to be compensated for their hard work. That’s why people work because we have needs and we need to be secure that when we work we get paid.” – Miguel Angel

Many people don’t know what do when their wages are stolen. Most bear it and some just quit. For some Latinos can be even more complicated. Workers lacking documentation, or strong English skills, are more vulnerable and at greater risk of exploitation, making it that much harder to fight for missing wages.

Harder, but not impossible.

Miguel Angel was able to successfully recoup his missing wages by building support in the community and bringing people together to collectively hold the bad employer accountable. They did not call the police or involve a lawyer, but they did get Miguel the money he’d earned. Now Miguel is committed to helping others who are struggling with a bad employer.

“Don’t be afraid to claim what is yours. I would be afraid to claim something that wasn’t mine. But if its something that belongs to you then you shouldn’t be afraid to claim it.” – Miguel Angel

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