Lillian Daniel: The Power of a Paystub

"Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you." - James 5:4 

A recent study of low-paid workers found that 57 percent do not get a pay stub. In other words, when they get paid, they have no idea how their pay is calculated or what is deducted. These workers are often paid in cash, by check without explanation, or with a payroll debit card that either does not have a paystub or charges the worker to see it. 

Would it pose a hardship to employers if there were a federal requirement to provide workers pay stubs? Not really. The Department of Labor already requires employers to keep records for three years on how workers' pay is calculated. So how hard would it be to share those same pay calculations with the worker who earned it? And why wouldn't we do that? 

When we make things unclear, when we refuse to show the detail, when we keep things vague, we generally do it for a reason. We don't want the clarity. 

According to a report on wage theft, "Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers," two-thirds of low-wage workers in this country don't get their full pay. A growing number of people are experiencing wage theft averaging 15% of their weekly income. What is the biggest obstacle workers face in combating wage theft? Lack of documentation. 

With the Labor Day weekend behind us, these words from the letter of James remind us that justice never takes a holiday, but keeps alert to the cries of wages stolen or lost. 


Dear God, be with those who work by day, and those who work by night. Be with those who have no work and with those who seek it. Be with those who seek clarity and those who seek justice, in your holy name. Amen.


From UCC's Still Speaking Devotionals. Visit