With cards and boxes of chocolates in hand, last week members of the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft and its supporters visited Los Angeles city council members, asking them for their support in ending wage theft. The Valentine’s Day themed action asked council members to take action in holding the Economic Development committee accountable to its commitments. In December of 2014, the Economic Development Committee approved a motion that directed the city attorney’s office “to report on the feasibility of establishing an Office of Labor Standards to enforce local wage ordinances.” However, the deadline for the report has come and gone, and so the coalition demanded council members put the wage theft ordinance back on the agenda of the next Economic Development Committee meeting on February 24th.
“SCOPE understands that this fight is critical in lifting low-income communities out of poverty and into a road of sustainable opportunities,” says Gloria Medina, SCOPE training director. “Dis-invested and disenfranchised communities need to have a voice toward an equitable future. Low-wage workers are the backbone of our local economy; day-in and day-out they keep this city functioning for meager wages. In order to create change and sustainable solutions, we must create long-term systemic change.”
During the visits to the different councilmembers’ offices, the coalition offered an alternative tool that the city can use: Collect. Protect. Enforce. Right now, workers who have won cases against their employers for stolen wages have no way of collecting these wages. Felipe Villarreal, a former carwash worker, won his case for $67,000 in back wages, but has yet to see a cent. Workers also need protection from employer retaliations for speaking up against wage theft. One of the biggest fears workers have in reporting wage theft is losing their job. Many low-wage workers are in a vicious cycle of poverty and can’t afford to go without work. Lastly, the city needs the proper tools to enforce wage theft laws and measures. The creation of an office would help with enforcement.
According to Sophia Cheng of the Restaurant Opportunities Center-Los Angeles, restaurant workers’ wages are part of the $26 million each week that is stolen due to wage theft. “Restaurant workers suffer wage theft through lack of rest and meal breaks, tip stealing, clocking out, doing side work, missing hours from a paycheck, being forced to buy tools, uniforms and just simple nonpayment. Customers and the general public lose out on a larger tax base and spending in the local economy. Responsible businesses get undercut by outlaw employers. When workers don’t get paid, they don’t have money to spend,” she added. She also shared that there are proven policy solutions to collect, protect and enforce wage theft in cities like San Francisco and New York.
You can join the movement to support workers and push the city to pass the wage theft ordinance by:
- Endorsing the campaign by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
- Like the Facebook page
- Join the coalition at City Hall during the Economic Development Committee hearing on Tues 2/24 to call for a comprehensive wage theft ordinance.
SCOPE believes that giving communities the necessary tools to fight for their rights is at the center of creating a more equitable and health Los Angeles. We continue to support the work of the wage theft coalition and all of its members. Learn more about how we’ve been involved here.