Unregulated Work in the Global City was motivated by a simple premise: the many laws on the books to protect the working poor mean little if they are not enforced. Over three years of intensive research, the Brennan Center documented a city where jobs pay less than the minimum wage, and sometimes nothing at all; where employers do not pay overtime for 60-hour weeks, and deny meal breaks that are required by law; where vital health and safety regulations are routinely ignored, even after injuries occur; and where workers are subject to blatant discrimination, and retaliated against for speaking up or trying to organize.
Our research suggests that unregulated work is not confined to isolated, short-lived cases of exploitation at the fringe of the city’s economy. Instead, the report finds that the systematic violation of federal, state and local law is threatening to become a way of doing business in major low-wage industries. It identifies the types of laws that employers are violating, the business strategies that result in violations, the workers who are most affected, and the policy changes that are needed to renew the promise of workplace protections. The report focuses on New York City, but we are convinced that the conditions it describes exist throughout the American economy.