Victory in San Francisco!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 16, 2011


Shaw San Liu, Chinese Progressive Association, (415) 999-8447 | (Chinese and English)

Renee Saucedo, La Raza Centro Legal, (415) 425-6575 | (Spanish)

Tiffany Crain, Young Workers United, (916) 212-0072 | (English)





(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.