Protecting the dignity of a day's pay 

Protecting the dignity of a day's pay 
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As America observes its 125th Labor Day, we pay tribute to the immeasurable contributions in our great nation by the American worker.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) celebrates these workers — their resolve, their dedication and their accomplishments. We celebrate the job creators who provide those opportunities and pathways to explore our potential, to challenge ourselves and to succeed. Our work provides so much more than financial stability — it goes to the core of who we are culturally, socially, even spiritually. The dignity of our work defines us.

The Trump administration proudly celebrates and protects that dignity and strength through steadfast commitment to leveling the playing field, for workers and employers. We remain laser-focused on our core mission — to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards that protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime and child labor standards, as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act and a host of other federal labor laws.

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Our work provides employees economic security to know that the legal rights afforded to them — chiefly, the right to get paid for their work — will be enforced. Our work as a neutral, fact-finding enforcement agency helps to balance the scale. It protects employers by ensuring a level playing field throughout the economy, eliminating unfair competitive advantage that unscrupulous employers may gain from paying workers less than the wages they legally earned.

Last year, WHD collected more back wages for workers than ever before — more than $304 million. That’s an average of $835,000 in back wages for workers every day — enough to feed more than 900 families for a month. The $304 million recovered for 265,000 workers averages roughly $1,150 for every worker found due back wages. For retail cashiers, $1,150 would mean nearly four times what they would earn in a typical work week. Imagine how challenging it would be if your next four weekly paychecks never came. That is the reality for workers who don’t get paid what they have earned, and the driving force behind our work.

Yet our work is not only about enforcement. WHD has long maintained that enforcement alone will not deliver the best results for workers. Education and outreach to workers and employers go hand-in-hand with strong enforcement. Even the best-intentioned business can break the law if it is uninformed of its obligations under the law. We believe the vast majority of employers want to comply — they simply need to know how. That’s why WHD conducted more than 3,600 outreach events and presentations last year, a record.

As we reflect on the value and the meaning of work, let’s honor our working men and women this Labor Day with a renewed appreciation for their contributions to our success as a nation. America is strong because the American workforce is strong.

If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be upheld. That means when work is completed, a day’s wages must be paid. Our mission is to ensure just that. As the American workforce has more jobs than ever before, you have WHD’s unwavering protection.  As you continue your work, we will continue our work, for you.

Cheryl M. Stanton is the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor.