C4AD (Cincinnatians for the American Dream) exists to promote public understanding of workplace justice issues in Cincinnati using the tools, standards, and ethics of journalism.

We focus first on instances in which employers fail to pay their workers. There is a flood of cases in the Cincinnati area that accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, falsifying time cards, and wrongfully taking employees’ tips. Worker advocates call these practices “wage theft,” insisting it has become far too prevalent.

Wage theft gouges workers, steals from taxpayers, and cheats competitors. It also violates the social contract— among workers, employers, shareholders, government, taxpayers and consumers—on which the American Dream is built.

The contract promises a social and economic order in which each man and woman, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, can achieve according to their talent and hard work and thereby make a better life for themselves and their children. As a nation and a city, our shared values and identity, our social cohesion draw their strength from the promises of this social contract.

We are concerned that wage theft is symptomatic of a larger worldview that has come to dominate our current thinking — a worldview that values individual freedom, free markets, and profit far above collective interests and that devalues the contributions of workers, taxpayers, and government.

Many people have become disconnected from our economy and the American experience. They have become marginalized, no longer necessary for the operation of the economy. They see no plausible future for themselves or their children. If there is a social contract for some, it is not for them.

Most Baby Boomers followed the promise of the American Dream. Many–but certainly not all–thrived. But subsequent generations are increasingly mistrustful or cynical of its promise. And with good reason. They suspect correctly that the rules of the economy have been rigged against them.

The social and economic order we inhabit is governed in large part the economic rules we live under. Our future like our past is a product of such rules, which themselves reflect the push and pull of different interests over our history.

Can we harness the extraordinary power of our economy to renew the social contract to expand economic opportunities, reduce poverty, and promote fairness, while rewarding individual talent, initiative, and hard work?

We hope you join the conversation.