Saturday, September 04, 2010

Memories of Jobs and Non-Payment by Employers

By Kevin Stoda, in the USA, July 3, 2010

These first few weeks in July 2010 some 2.5 million Americans will not receive unemployment checks because U. S. Senators from across the Land could not take their wealthy salaries, perks, and insurance and donate them all to the pool of money needed to protect families across America from weeks with no income.


Many of these same Senators pointed fingers at one another and said the-other-guy-was-the-one who refused to cut the federal budget elsewhere; therefore, 2.5 million of Americans could not and would not receive help. (Few Senators seem to care about the probable major double-dip-recession TO BE created by Washington and state governments who are CURRENTLY not willing to spend the country out of this Banking, Financier, and DOD debt and recession. )

Think about it. In a way, the U.S. Senators are laying off 2.5 million already unemployed Americans--i.e. without pay--once again.


As many more Americans are underemployed and not eligible for unemployment insurance, there are now certainly Americans these days who are scrounging upmoney and part-time jobs here and there.

Sometimes these underemployed Americans earn a lot doing part-time work.

Others just get by day-by-day. Today, one lady on NPR noted that her only income now---aside from unemployment insurance (the insurance she has now been laid off from), was only occasionally doing stints of photography for weddings. NOTE: The woman likely signed no contract for such odd jobs.

One can hardly live from such occasional work. However, more than 2.5 million Americans (and their families) will have to try.


It is worse still when employers or contractors refuse to pay, especially for non-contract labor.. That is: If and when an employer in the US fails to pay a fully (written) contracted worker, state and federal laws allow worker who have a written contract to quickly go to court--and there are lawyers who will help out (for a fee or future fee). However, the person who agrees to work simply based on a gentleman's agreement,--i.e. for a day or a few weeks, as occurs with harvest workers in my home state of Kansas--, really need to pray for a very honest employer.

This issue comes up a lot during harvest time in the Midwest, but it also is an all-year-round issue in most Right-to-Work-States (like Kansas), where employers have an even stronger position over employers than elsewhere.


When one is a young high school student (and short of cash), one is quite happy to get job offers, i.e. to mow lawns, to work fields, clean houses and garages, or to help with construction The first harvesting effort (which I went unpaid for) was at the age of 15 or 16. That month, my dad had mentioned that there was a woman living catty-corner to our house (down across the main street in town) who was looking for help. That lady had many walnut trees, but she did not harvest walnuts or use them for any purpose. When I approached her, she said she would pay me so much per bag and the job would take a few hours. I should note that it was made clear to me that I would not get paid until my job of walnut harvesting was completed.

Well, the first Saturday and Sunday, I worked for about 4 hours in this backbreaking effort of gleaning the woman's property of fallen walnuts. I had to rest and I started over the next day afternoon after school. Even then, I was still nowhere near being finished Moreover, filling the bags among autumn leaves and tall grass was not as easy (nor as quick) as I had been led to believe..

I went a fourth day and the walnuts continued to fall. Since, I practiced football after school most nights, I arrived exhausted on Tuesday. My back continued to ache. I needed to take a break on the fifth day. By the next weekend, although there were 4 or 5 bags of walnuts collected, the job was taking far longer than the few hours I had been promised.

Finally, I just gave up.(My back took a month to recover.) I never received a cent for the effort.

The following autumn a fellow high school football player, and grandson of local farmers, asked me to come and help pull weeds in a cornfield before harvest. That time both my older brother and I accepted. We thought that job would be through in a day, too. We worked till dark and were asked to come back on Sunday.

This all turned out to be a scam, too, for which neither my brother nor I were ever paid for either.

In short, we were young, naïve and suckers.

From then on, I decided I would never work for any job that did not include a contract. Most people in America are that way, but when times are tough people are unduly pressed. This is one reason that many foreigners and illegal aliens in America are put under pressure--and sometimes receive no pay or reduced pay for their efforts. It is also why, at times, I and many other teachers in America have begun teaching years without contracts in hand.


Over the past decade, I have worked in the USA, Mexico, Kuwait and Germany. In my opinion (and base upon first person and second person experience), in both Germany and Kuwait, it was rather easy for employers to get away with either delaying payments or not paying salaries at all. My former roommate in Kuwait , a ceramics engineer in a firm owned by a royal family member was often not paid for three months at a time. Many of my friends from church had also experienced similar months without pay. Luckily, in Kuwait, between 2004-2008, this never happened to me.

In 2009, in Germany my former employer failed to pay me over 10,000 euros in earnings. The owner then closed the company down and moved that firm to the UK. Similarly, a short stint of work in January and February 2010 went unpaid to a tune of over 4000 euros. I am still fighting in the German labor courts to get all that money back. (German labor courts were once reputed to be the most favorable on the continent for labor. Those days seem over.)


In Mexico, I really had two main problems (one of which was similar to the problem in Germany). The first problem was that the peso fell drastically against the dollar just prior to my moving there--and only got worse over the 1 when I labored in Mexico. The second issues was the fact that I had been invited to work a certain number of overtime hours and receive a certain amount of pay each month. These overtime hours were cut back the second semester I was there, and this deduction in overall expected salary was not recovered in the third semester I taught either.

In the USA, I was given 4 one-semester contracts to teach at Texas A & M in 2001 and 2002. The whole thing started as a bate & switch. The first terms (Summer 2001), I actually received 30%+ more pay than I did in any of the following three terms. In short, after the first semester, I often did the same amount of work for 30% less pay.

How did I get caught up in that scam? The main reason was that in the USA teachers and adjunct- or associate professors often have to start teaching in any one term or semester, i.e. without a contract being firmly negotiated nor a fixed contract having been offered. Part of this is due (at least at the university level) to last minute student enrollment figures. In school districts in Texas, Kansas, and other states, various schools start most every school year with no-negotiated agreement yet on hand. (This has occurred to my brother and his co-staff members in the Dodge City, Kansas school district for several years now. He often has to wait months or even nearly a year to get full-payment or retribution for his earnings due to these whimsical annual negotiations)

In short, in the USA, one is sometimes already in the act of teaching before one even learns what the negotiated agreement says. Likewise, by that time it is often too late to move on to another job or to another school district because the terms or semesters across the state (or region) have started already. The only choice then is to move far out of state or abroad to find work. (That is why I left Texas and moved to Mexico in August 2002.)


With the bail-out-of-too-big-to-fail banks and the continued large war budgets in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Americans are being asked to cut back. Now, Congress, by refusing to support unemployed Americans in timely receiving their paychecks, is likely going to force many Americans to take on jobs from sleazy employers who screw their employees and sometimes refuse to pay them their full salaries.

I think it is clear. It is high time to lay-off a lot of congressmen and senators in 2008--without pay, too. Let's cut their retirement and pay for other in America who are suffering.

Don't you agree?



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