Stop wage theft. Bill protecting undocumented workers passes Illinois House.


-By State Representative Will Guzzardi

We just passed HB3554 out of the House today. As terrible and frustrating as things can be in Springfield sometimes, there are times when I genuinely love my job, and this was one of them.

It’s a bill about wage theft. So: you work 40 hours, your employer only pays you for 20. You take them to court, judge says “they owe you 20 hours of wages.” Employer pays that money to the Illinois Department of Labor, who then pays it to you.

If DoL can’t find you, they deposit the money with the Comptroller. If you then show up and want to claim your money, the Comptroller can issue a voucher to get you paid. But — and here’s the problem! — they can only issue vouchers if you have a Social Security number.

So if you’re a victim of wage theft and undocumented (as many are), you can’t get your wages from the state — wages you earned, wages a judge ruled you are owed. The state is essentially complicit in stealing your wages.

HB3554 is a technical solution to this problem. It’s a complicated problem, it’s not easy to explain, it was hard to solve. There’s no powerful special interests on either side of it. It took a lot of tedious negotiation and discussion.

But the lives of some very vulnerable people who have been cruelly taken advantage of, a few of those lives anyway, are going to get a little bit better.

I’m a big fan of big ideas. Transformative ideas. The enormous problems this Governor has caused will call for enormous solutions. But there’s a time and a place for that, and a time and a place for some old-fashioned elbow grease.

Big props to Luis Klein, Tom Hoffmann, Jorge Mújica Murias, Raise the Floor Alliance, and the many others who helped make this happen.

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