Category Archives: Print

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 The information had previously been classified as a “trade secret” under an outdated law.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.

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:

 

Regulators Couldn’t Close U.S. Mine Despite Poor Safety Record

The West Virginia mine where two workers were fatally injured on Monday consistently violated federal mine safety laws, but federal regulators say they were unable to shut it down completely.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration confirmed that two workers were killed on May 12 when coal and rocks burst from mine walls at Patriot Coal’s Brody No. 1 mine in Boone County, W.Va.

Continue reading Regulators Couldn’t Close U.S. Mine Despite Poor Safety Record

Striking farmworkers say Sakuma threatened to evict them

BURLINGTON — Against a backdrop of blackberries ripening in the afternoon sun, about 100 striking migrant farmworkers at Sakuma Bros. Farms chanted and protested here Wednesday after wage negotiations with the company broke down and the latest work stoppage entered a third day.

The workers say Sakuma has threatened to evict them from company-owned housing if they don’t return to work.

Read it in the Seattle Times. Originally published July 24, 2013.

Galamsey: Will Work for Gold

Driving outside Prestea, in western Ghana, you might wonder about the makeshift tents lining the roadside, or what the black grime on the ground is, or why there are so many women selling food in such a random-looking place.
But if you went to the area’s chief and got permission to enter the camp, you would see that it’s not a shanty-town but a profitable small business, run by local entrepreneurs.

Continue reading Galamsey: Will Work for Gold