All posts by Anna

Reporting on wage theft prompts law changes

On April 13, 2017 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1021, which opened up wage theft violations and enforcement actions to the public. The information had previously been classified as a “trade secret” under an outdated law. The idea for the bill came from a story I did two years earlier for Rocky Mountain PBS News showing how the opaque law shielded unlawful employers from public view.

Full coverage from the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

“The NRA’s Straight-A Students”

“There are currently 36 states where more than half of all state legislators have a grade of A- or better, according to an analysis of data provided by Vote Smart, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization. In 14 states, including most of those in the gun belt, that majority exceeds two thirds, reaching or approaching veto-proof. In Kentucky and Oklahoma, the number extends beyond 80 percent.

“Out of the more than 7,300 individual state lawmakers nationwide, there are 4,095 whom the NRA rates as A- or higher.”

Full story here.

Reporting and writing by Mike Spies. Data analysis by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch. Graphics by Francesca Mirabile.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities Loom Large in State Justice

BY ANNA BOIKO-WEYRAUCH
Rocky Mountain PBS News

At a time when inequities in criminal justice are the focus of intense national debate, blacks and Latinos are overrepresented at every step in Colorado’s criminal process compared to their numbers in the general population.

Black and Latino Coloradans are disproportionately incarcerated, shot by police, arrested and detained as youth, arrested for marijuana, sent back to prison from parole, and disadvantaged by a criminal record, a Rocky Mountain PBS News examination of state data, records and reports shows.

Read the full story here. View the full documentary film here.

Ozone, Asthma And The Oil And Gas Connection

For Inside Energy. Aired on KUNC October 6th, 2016 and on The Texas Standard October 13th, 2016.

Researchers nationwide are starting to take a closer look at how air emissions from oil and gas development affect public health. One worrying kind of pollution is ozone, which can harm people and the environment. Children with asthma are especially vulnerable.

Read more here.

Colorado Losing Millions to Worker Misclassification

In these two stories I analyzed data on random audits conducted by the Division of Unemployment Insurance of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and used statistical methods to estimate the rate of misclassification and unpaid premiums to the state as a whole. The results were validated by two statisticians who are officers of the Colorado-Wyoming chapter of the American Statistical Association.

I found Colorado state lost an estimated $114 million to $124 million since 2011 and the rate of misclassified workers has more than doubled, from at least 6 percent of the work force to at least 13 percent, according to the analysis. The average amount of unpaid premiums has also nearly doubled from at least $69 to $124 per employee annually.

Taxpayers miss out on millions of dollars in unemployment payments

Denver luxury condo spurs claims of worker abuse

Pay Snubs: Wage Theft in Colorado

Following an inquiry by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News, the president of Bradley Petroleum Buzz Calkins discovered the final paycheck for Ward Boydstun for $447. In 2012, Boydstun was arrested at a Bradley Petroleum gas station that he managed and was accused of taking $4,534, but police found no evidence of the theft and dropped the case.(Joe Mahoney/Rocky Mountain PBS I-News)
Following an inquiry by Rocky Mountain PBS News, the president of Bradley Petroleum, Buzz Calkins discovered the final paycheck for Ward Boydstun for $447. In 2012, Boydstun was arrested at a Bradley Petroleum gas station that he managed and was accused of taking $4,534, but police found no evidence of the theft and dropped the case. (Joe Mahoney/Rocky Mountain PBS News)

If you work, what happens if you don’t get paid? That’s the situation for countless workers across Colorado and the United States.

During my time at Rocky Mountain PBS I-News, I researched and wrote about enforcement of state and federal wage and hour laws in Colorado. It’s an important issue and happens probably more often, and in more industries, than you think.

This series led to proposed legislation in 2016 to improve transparency of Colorado wage law violations and a state investigation into three construction contractors. It also helped recover lost wages for two gas station workers. The stories became required reading in a University of Denver class.

Here are the stories in print, with accompanying audio versions:

 

Delinquent mines series wins 2014 IRE award

awardslogo_slim

I’m very honored to be among the 2014 IRE award winners with my colleagues from NPR.

“Judges’ comments: “Delinquent Mines” used innovative data analysis to find that 2,700 American coal and mineral mining companies had failed to pay nearly $70 million in delinquent mine safety penalties for years or even decades. These mining companies operated more than 4,000 mines and while they were delinquent, committed 131,000 violations, exposing a loophole in federal regulation and enforcement that places miners at risk. The collaboration found human stories to illustrate the data, from anguished families whose relatives were killed in mining accidents to one billionaire owner whose mines had large unpaid fines. The stories led the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to cite a major delinquent mining company for failure to pay its fines and then shut down the mine when the operator failed to meet a deadline for payment. The agency also said it was considering an “early warning system” for delinquent mines so that it could begin court action against them sooner.”