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Wage Theft News

Miami-Dade County – Mayor restores funds to the Wage Theft Program

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Media Contacts

Jeanette Smith, Florida Wage Theft Task Force, (305) 598-1404

Natalia Jaramillo, Florida Immigrant Coalition, (786) 317-3524

Miami, September 23, 2011 – After a lengthy debate and vote by the Board of County Commissioners to approve a new Budget, the County’s Wage Theft Program avoided the sad fate that many basic social services, programs and organizations faced, and guaranteed its continuation.

 

The Wage Theft Program, that processes claims from workers who were not paid or were underpaid by unscrupulous employers, was initially included among the list of programs that would be understaffed by a lack of funds. The position of the sole designated staff person was set to be cut. However, not only were the program’s funds preserved, but Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez also acknowledged its value, praising a recent collaboration with the US Department of Labor.

 

“We are glad to see that our elected officials are deeply committed to protecting the rights of our County’s workers. In the middle of an economic and unemployment crisis, and with barely a year of existence, the Wage Theft Program has already helped hundreds of families recover the salaries they had fairly earned with hard work,” says Jeanette Smith from the Florida Wage Theft Task Force. “Our County simply could not afford to lose this program, which is so vital to keeping our economy alive.”

 

The Wage Theft Ordinance was approved February 28th, 2010 and fully implemented six months later within the Department of Small Business Development (SBD). In its first year it has processed 662 claims for a total amount of $1,760,177. Almost $400,000 has been recovered through conciliation and over $300,000 has been awarded through a hearing examiner process. In August alone, the program recovered and collected thru conciliation $52,000 for 109 workers.

 

The Florida Wage Theft Task Force has been advocating for the preservation of the program as soon as the Budget was initially presented. “Since the program started, the number of workers filing claims has continued to grow as word of the program spreads,” says Smith. “These numbers not only represent how successful the program is, but also the real dimension of a problem that very few saw before.”

 

In a press statement released before the Budget hearing started, Mayor Gimenez praised the success of the Wage Theft Program and stated, “There is no lack of individuals needing help and we’re not going to use the lack of resources as an excuse for not doing what’s right.”

 

The Florida Wage Theft Task Force will continue to work closely with the County to ensure the success of the Wage Theft Program and has already helped to establish an internship program that will allow talented undergraduates and law students to work closely with the SBD to process wage theft cases. These types of community – government collaborations are particularly valuable during challenging economic times.

 

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The Wage Theft Ordinance was first drafted by the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, a group of community organizations, labor unions, immigrant rights groups, faith based organizations, lawyers, and university researchers who recognized the need for action on this growing problem in Miami-Dade County and who worked with the Board of County Commissioners to pass the ordinance, which established the County’s Wage Theft Program in 2010.

Victory in San Francisco!

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SAN FRANCISCO PROGRESSIVE WORKERS ALLIANCE

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 16, 2011

CONTACT:

Shaw San Liu, Chinese Progressive Association, (415) 999-8447 | shawsan@cpasf.org (Chinese and English)

Renee Saucedo, La Raza Centro Legal, (415) 425-6575 | renee@lrcl.org (Spanish)

Tiffany Crain, Young Workers United, (916) 212-0072 | crain100@gmail.com (English)

SAN FRANCISCO SETS NATIONAL STANDARDS ON WORKERS RIGHTS MAYOR ED LEE SIGNS WAGE THEFT PREVENTION ORDINANCE;

 

SENDS CLEAR MESSAGE THAT CITY WILL NOT TOLERATE WAGE THEFT

PROGRESSIVE WORKERS ALLIANCE CELEBRATES VICTORY

(San Francisco, CA) Today, surrounded by workers and members of the Board of Supervisors, Mayor Ed Lee signed the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance into law, solidifying San Francisco as a national leader in the movement to end wage theft. The mayor, along with other city leaders, declared that San Francisco will not tolerate wage theft and sent a clear message to those trying to cheat workers that they will be held accountable and prosecuted. Led by the Progressive Workers Alliance (PWA) and co-authored by Supervisors David Campos and Eric Mar, this ordinance passed unanimously at the Board of Supervisors after months of grassroots organizing and strengthens the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE)’s ability to investigate and enforce violations of the City’s minimum wage law (currently $9.92/hr).

 

The Mayor was joined by members of the Progressive Workers Alliance, the San Francisco Labor Council, Supervisors Campos, Mar, Kim, District Attorney George Gascon, and OLSE Director Donna Levitt. “Even here in San Francisco, a city that strives to maintain the best quality of life for every citizen, we suffer from wage theft among our low-wage and immigrant workers. And so today, San Francisco is continuing to set a national standard for workers’ rights,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “Thank you to the Progressive Workers Alliance for partnering with us to advocate for the basic rights of low-wage immigrants and workers of color, and the Board of Supervisors for passing the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance. We need to protect our workforce from theft, so they can provide for themselves and their families and continue to make our City a truly successful city.”

 

“In these tough economic times, low-wage workers are facing increasing rates of wage theft in industries such as restaurant, caregiving, construction and more,” said Mario de Mira, worker organizer with the Filipino Community Center. “While the city’s OLSE has successfully recovered millions in backwages for workers, we of the Progressive Workers Alliance felt more needed to be done to protect workers against wage theft, and empower the agency to go after bad actors.” Key provisions of the ordinance include: investigator access to worksites, workers and records at any time during business hours; ability to cite employers immediately for violations; doubling penalties for employers who retaliate against workers; penalizing employers who fail to post the Minimum Wage notice or provide contact information to workers, requiring employers inform their employees of investigations for wage violations, and setting a time limit of one year to resolve a case or initiate hearing proceedings.

 

Supervisor Eric Mar, who co-authored the ordinance with Supervisor David Campos, said: “Low-wage and immigrant workers, organizing with the Progressive Workers Alliance, were integral to the passage of the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance. By sharing their stories and experiences, they underscored the importance of ensuring that low-wage workers and responsible employers are not cheated by bad actors.”

“Through this Campaign, I have seen how my experience is similar to the experience of so many other workers and that together we are powerful!” said a Latina immigrant restaurant worker, who is a leader with Young Workers United and mother of three. “I am happy that this law gives us more protection from retaliation,” said another low-wage worker who is pursuing thousands of dollars in minimum wage violations through the OLSE. “Since fear of retaliation is the number one factor that stops workers from speaking out, this ordinance will encourage workers to stand up for their rights.”

 

“This victory in PWA’s Campaign to End Wage Theft comes almost exactly one year after we launched our ‘Check, Please’ report, which revealed that 1 in 2 Chinatown restaurant workers is cheated of minimum wage,” said Shaw San Liu, lead organizer with the Chinese Progressive Association. “After months of organizing, it is huge for the community to see city leaders pledge to step up the fight to end wage theft.”

The ordinance comes as the City Attorney pursues major lawsuits against Dick Lee Pastry and Tower Car Wash to help workers reclaim thousands of dollars in stolen wages. “La Raza Centro Legal’s collaboration with City Attorney Dennis Herrera on the case against Tower Car Wash represents a powerful alliance in the struggle for wage justice — the City of San Francisco, its workers, and community organizations, ” said Kate Hege, Workers’ Rights Coordinating Attorney with La Raza Centro Legal.

 

Celebrating the signing of the ordinance, California State Labor Commissioner Julie Su said, “The passage of San Francisco’s Wage Theft Prevention ordinance gives vulnerable workers and employers, both of whom are hurt by those who underpay their employees, an important and valuable tool. The State is committed to effective enforcement of labor laws to protect hardworking employees, to level the playing field for honest employers, and to boost our economy.” Later this month, PWA worker members will meet with Labor Commissioner Julie Su, a longtime advocate for immigrant and worker rights, to discuss state-wide solutions to the wage theft epidemic.

 

In the next phase of the Campaign to End Wage Theft, the Progressive Workers Alliance will organize a multi-agency task force to coordinate efforts to end wage theft, and continue to work to level the playing field by promoting responsible employers and educating consumers.

 

About the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance (Amendments to the Minimum Wage Ordinance)

The San Francisco ordinance increases the power of the Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement (OLSE) to enforce the city’s minimum wage laws.

Highlights include:

  • Allows investigators access to payroll records; interview workers; and inspect work sites at any time during business hours.
  • Removes the 10-day grace period for citations and strengthens the city’s ability to cite employers immediately for violations
  • Increases penalties against employers who retaliate against workers who file complaints, doubling penalties from $500 to $1000 per violation.
  • Penalizes employers who fail to provide their name and contact information to workers, as well as those who refuse to post the minimum wage notice at the workplace.
  • Requires employers to notify workers when the employer is under investigation
  • Makes it a policy of the City to resolve cases or begin hearing proceedings within 1 year.
  • Additionally, to increase OLSE’s capacity to reach vulnerable workers, the ordinance requires OLSE to work with community partners to develop culturally and language-appropriate outreach materials.

 

The ordinance will go into effect in thirty days after it is signed. The ordinance was co-authored by Supervisor David Campos and Eric Mar, and co-sponsors include Supervisors John Avalos, David Chiu, Jane Kim, Ross Mirkarimi, and Scott Wiener.

 

About the San Francisco Progressive Workers Alliance

The Progressive Workers Alliance is an alliance of San Francisco low-wage worker organizations that brings together low-wage workers across race, ethnicity, language, and sector. The member organizations include: Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, the Chinese Progressive Association, Filipino Community Center, La Raza Centro Legal – Day Laborer Program and Women’s Collective, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, People Organized to Win Employment Rights, Pride at Work, and Young Workers United.

Local Wage Theft Campaign kicks off this Tuesday in Grand Rapids

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The Micah Center and the Michigan Organizing Project have been doing the ground work to organize a campaign against Wage Theft in Grand Rapids. With the support of Grand Rapids City Mayor George Heartwell, the local effort is being this Tuesday where the Micah Center will show a new documentary, which features local workers who have experienced Wage Theft.

The event will also let people know about how they can get involved in the Grand Rapids campaign. The event will be held on Tuesday, September 20 at Hope Reformed Church, located at 2010 Kalamazoo, SE, Grand Rapids. The event begins at 6:00PM.

http://griid.org/2011/09/18/local-wage-theft-campaign-kicks-off-this-tuesday-in-grand-rapids/

States, feds share data on wage theft

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The Labor Department is signing agreements to share information with nearly a dozen states, including Hawaii, and the Internal Revenue Service as it gets more aggressive in its program to crack down on businesses that cheat workers out of their wages. The information will help Labor officials target businesses that improperly label workers as independent contractors or as nonemployees to deprive workers of minimum wage and overtime pay. Misclassifying workers….

http://www.staradvertiser.com/business/businessnews/20110920_States_feds_share_data_on_wage_theft.html

Students, Laborers Share Experiences

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One Saturday morning, a group of students gathered in Healy 106 prepared to head into the city for the day to experience life through the eyes of a day laborer.

The group of about 12 undergraduates were all participants in the Day Laborer Exchange Program sponsored by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor — a university program that works to improve the lives of the working class….

http://www.thehoya.com/students-laborers-share-experiences-1.2599943

The fault lines under the crust

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MARILAC, Brazil — In this remote valley of sugarcane fields and cattle farms, where horses and bicycles outnumber cars and poverty binds the community like mortar, people searching for a better life have one choice: They can leave town.

The most coveted destination has long been Boston — more precisely, one high-end local pizza chain. The promise of a job at an Upper Crust shop, passed by word of mouth from one villager to the next, offered the possibility of wages unheard of in Marilac, a community of 4,140 people in the mountains of southeastern Brazil.

Over the past decade, dozens of men from Marilac have made the 7,500-mile trek, risking arrest, deportation, and, in rare cases, death. And Upper Crust, founded by Sharon native Jordan Tobins in 2001, welcomed them.

Tobins needed lots of kitchen help; the Brazilians worked hard and didn’t complain about workweeks that routinely stretched to 80 hours. Marilac prospered as Upper Crust’s immigrant employees sent thousands of dollars home, and the company swiftly expanded from its original store in Beacon Hill to one upscale suburb after another.

Over time, however, this amicable but unlawful relationship would unravel.…

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/12/05/harmony_gives_way_to_exploitation_charge_against_upper_crust/

Stealing Immigrants’ Wages in New York

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In the summer of 2009, Vicente Martinez Ávila, originally of Puebla, Mexico, was hired for one of the most patriotic jobs his adopted country could offer: tending the grounds at the national cemetery in Cypress Hills in east Brooklyn

Thousands of war dead, dating from the Civil War to Vietnam, are buried there, including two dozen Medal of Honor winners. They lie under row upon row of simple white headstones rising along a grassy slope topped by a monument.

Martinez’s job was to water the new turf being laid down by a California-based company that won a $1.6 million federal contract to re-sod this national landmark. He was glad to have the work. It paid well: $16 an hour. It was also just a few blocks’ walk from his home on Jamaica Avenue. The company asked him to arrive early, and that was fine with him. They also asked him to stay late. This was fine, too, because he knew that he was entitled to wages of time and a half for every extra hour worked.

“They asked me to work more and more hours,” Martinez said last week via a translator. “I would get there at 5 in the morning and be there until after 6 at night.” His watering was so important to the job that the company told him they needed him there on weekends and holidays as well. The grass didn’t care what day of the week it was. “It had to be watered,” he said. Again, this was all good. He was 60 years old, but he had family in Mexico and three children right here in New York to support. More hours meant more money, and what could be wrong with …

http://labor.qwriting.org/2010/12/10/stealing-immigrants-wages-in-new-york/

Workers’ Safeguards Strengthened by N.Y. Law

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Gov. David A. Paterson signed into law some of the nation’s strongest protections against wage theft on Monday, after months of lobbying by immigrants’ advocates and labor unions that said New York lagged behind other states on the issue.

The law, which takes effect in April, will quadruple the penalties for employers who steal workers’ pay, and will protect whistle-blowers from retaliation.

Employers who pay below the minimum wage, fail to pay overtime or unfairly garnishee wages are especially rampant in restaurant, retail and construction businesses where illegal immigrants make up much of the work force, according to a report this year by the National Employment Law Project. In New York City, the report said, lost wages add up to more than $18.4 million a week.

“These issues go unreported and unaddressed because…
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/nyregion/14wage.html

Wage theft hurts whole community

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Excerpts from the report, Wage Theft in Florida: A Real Problem with Real Solutions, which focuses on Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties and was prepared by the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University:

The negative effects of illegally shortchanging workers’ wages ripple across communities and the economy. Families suffer when earnings are too low to meet basic needs. Local businesses and economies are denied vital stimulus that would flow from the additional spending of workers had they been paid all they had earned.

Honest businesses are undermined by unscrupulous competitors who practice wage theft. And governments at all levels take a hit, because they are denied taxes generated by higher earnings and because many working families must resort to public programs to meet basic needs when wages fall short.

Community-based organizations and the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) can be successful at aiding workers in recovering wages, but will not be able to resolve all cases due to the sheer volume of cases. In addition, the WHD has limited jurisdiction and does not cover all…
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/12/04/1956762/wage-theft-hurts-whole-community.html#ixzz1FaGBrwCR