Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal


The COVID-19 pandemic exploded against a backdrop of federal retrenchment and repeal of workplace rights and protections for frontline workers, casting a spotlight on systemic racial inequity. While states and cities emerged as the last line of defense for wage standards in the United States, the sweeping application of mandatory arbitration agreements and restrictions on class actions makes enforcing those new rights difficult, if not impossible. A forecasted post-pandemic recession will further undermine the ability of workers to advocate for higher wages and diminish the capacity of enforcement agencies to combat wage theft. Given the enormity of this crisis, any effective response will require a significant investment of public funds, either through massive federal infrastructure and investment programs, or through a patchwork of state and local initiatives that put individuals back to work. Can the devastation of this moment lead us to a more equitable future? This paper creates a path forward for state and local governments to raise standards by expanding the application of prevailing wage laws to economic stimulus projects, and empowering frontline workers to enforce those higher wages through qui tam actions that make them deputies in their own fight for equitable workplace standards.



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