Thankful for Workers Who Make Holiday Celebrations Possible

A table full of holiday dishes and treats.

With the holidays upon us, millions of Americans will soon gather around the table with friends and family. The holiday season is a great time to recognize the workers throughout the supply chain who make our holiday celebrations possible. 

Workers in various industries – agriculture, apparel manufacturing, groceries, retail, trucking and warehousing, among others – work hard throughout the year to provide the products and services we enjoy. But some of them, unfortunately, are denied their full wages and other workplace protections. That’s why the Wage and Hour Division is focused on employer compliance with federal laws that protect these workers’ rights.  

Farmworkers often endure difficult working conditions – from insufficient drinking water to unsafe transportation and inadequate housing – and they are among the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. So, we make enforcement of agricultural workers’ rights a priority every year. In fiscal year 2023, we recovered over $6.8 million in back wages for more than 7,300 farmworkers. Our investigations produced similar results in the retail industry, recovering over $8.3 million in back wages for more than 9,600 workers.

Apparel manufacturing workers are also frequently underpaid. That’s why garment workers’ rights are a consistent focus of our offices in Southern California, where the industry is concentrated. In March 2023, we released our Southern California garment survey and found that some workers were paid as little as $1.58 per hour, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a result, we recovered more than $892,000 in back wages and liquidated damages for nearly 300 workers. Contractors and manufacturers included in our compliance survey produced garments for sale by national retailers such as Bombshell Sportswear, Dillard’s, Lulus, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Socialite, Stitch Fix and Von Maur.

Our greatest priority is protecting young workers from dangerous working conditions. In fiscal year 2023, we held more employers accountable for child labor violations than in any year in the last 15 years, concluding 955 investigations and assessing more than $8 million in penalties . From meat and poultry processors to the grocery stores that enable holiday meals across America, we’re taking strong actions to keep kids safe.

So, as you celebrate the holidays, please take a moment to extend gratitude to the workers who produce, transport and sell the food and gifts you share with friends and family. 

If you’re a worker who’s been denied minimum wage, overtime pay or other workplace protections, please know we’re here to answer questions and take complaints, regardless of where you’re from. We can communicate with callers confidentially in more than 200 languages at 1-866-4-US-WAGE (487-9243).

Betty R. Campbell is the regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division's Southwest region. Follow the division on X at @WHD_DOL and on LinkedIn