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73 SMU L. Rev. F. 63 (2020)
Erasing Race

handle is hein.journals/smulrf73 and id is 63 raw text is: 






SMU Law Review Forum


Volume 73                         April 2020                            63-72


                         ERASING RACE

                                Llezlie L. Green


                                  ABSTRACT

   Low-vage  workers frequently experience exploitation, including wage theft, at the
intersection of their racial identities and their economic vulnerabilities. Scholars, however,
rarely consider the role of wage and hour exploitation in broader racial subordination
frameworks. This Essay considers the narratives that have informed the detachment of racial
justice from the worker exploitation narrative and the distancing of economic justice from
the civil rights narrative. It then contends that social movements, like the Fight for $15,
can  disrupt narrow understandings of low-vage worker exploitation and proffer more
nuanced narratives that connect race, economic justice, and civil rights to a broader anti-
subordination campaign that can more effectively protect the most vulnerable workers.

   [Blut racial justice and economic justice are really just two sides of the same
coin....
                                   - Gabrielle Hatcher (Fight for $15 Protester)'

                              INTRODUCTION

   Much  of the legal scholarship concerning race and employment  law centers on
traditional understandings   of employment discrimination-that is, statutory
violations that occur when   an employer  treats an employee  differently in her
compensation,  promotion,  hiring, or termination because of the employee's racial
identity. Scholars and   advocates typically do  not  consider the  relationship
between  race and wage  theft-the statutory violations associated with the failure
to compensate   a worker properly for their hours worked.  Indeed, in my  earlier
work,  I pointed  out that the Department of Labor (DOL) does not seek or
maintain  racial demographic  information  of its complainants.2 As a result, the

     * Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law; J.D., Columbia Law
School; B.A., Dartmouth College.
     1. Willa Frej, These Are the Faces of the Fight for 15 Movement, HUFFINGTON POST (Nov. 10,
2015,        5:04        PM),        https://www.huffpost.com/entry/faces-of-fight-for-15-
movementn_56424398e4b0411d3072cc3e  [https://perma.cc/VKK3-ENWHI.
    2. See Llezlie Green Coleman, Disrupting the Discrimination Narrative: An Argument for Wage and
Hour Laws' Inclusion in Antisubordination Advocacy, 14 STAN. J. C.R. & C.L. 49, 51 (2018). The DOL
indicated it does not request demographic information from workers to avoid discouraging
vulnerable immigrant workers from engaging with the agency. Id. at 51-52. While the concerns


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