Ordinance expected ready for passage in early 2011

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Los Angeles should enact a wage theft ordinance that would punish employers for failing to pay their workers, labor advocates told the City Council on Thursday.

Wage theft is “the crime wave that no one talks about because it’s really all around us,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice.

Raul Coronel, who has worked at Marina Car Wash for 20 years, said he is sometimes forced to work without proper breaks and without overtime pay. He said that on five occasions, his employer gave him checks that bounced.

“We’re not asking for much — just to be paid fairly for the work we do,” Coronel said, adding he and his coworkers are trying to form a union.

“I have to support my wife and my three children with my wages, so if the owner doesn’t pay all of our hours or if we get bouncing checks, it makes it really hard to pay the rent and provide food for my family,” he said.

Labor advocates say wage theft includes paying less than the minimum wage, not paying overtime, forcing workers to work off the clock, workers not receiving their final paychecks, misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime and not paying workers at all.

Councilman Richard Alarcon said the council unanimously directed the City Attorney’s Office in December to draft a wage theft ordinance that should be ready for passage by early next year.

State and federal labor laws already make it illegal to pay workers less than the minimum wage or deprive them of overtime pay. But Alarcon said the problem is so pervasive in Los Angeles that he felt it necessary to have a city ordinance similar to those in Denver and Austin.

Citing a study called “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers,” Alarcon said that in Los Angeles, “30 percent of low-wage workers are paid less than the minimum wage, 80 percent are not paid legal overtime rates, and 20 percent of those who are tipped have had tips stolen by their employers.”

The study estimated that every week in Los Angeles, an estimated 745,000 low-wage workers lose $26.2 million in wage theft violations.

“These activities are already illegal from a labor law perspective, but we believe that because this is so rampant, we have to be much more aggressive and this (ordinance) would give us an opportunity,” Alarcon said.

He said the penalty for violating a city wage theft ordinance could range from fines to jail time.

The City Council presentation was part of a National Day of Action organized by Interfaith Worker Justice to highlight the issue.

Groups that participated in the presentation included Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, UCLA Labor Center, CLEAN Carwash Campaign and Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

The study can be viewed at www.unprotectedworkers.org.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (10)
  1. bigjim1 says:

    One more reason to leave this cesspool called Los Angeles. Over-regulation by the “socialist” pushing their agenda downt he throats of Los Angeles and the state.

  2. Ryan says:

    Leave! Please, leave.

    From a moderate.

  3. will says:

    I wonder how many of these ‘low-wage workers’ are also illegal aliens…I’ll bet 40%

  4. ChrisS says:

    Did I miss something? I thought this was already a crime and a labor violation in this state. All I see is the SEIU trying to steal money from hard working americans and the overpaid, over indulged city losers, I mean leaders, trying to look good to their special interest groups and cronies. ALL unions have outlived their usefullness.

  5. ChrisS says:

    By the way I was a FORCED member of SEIU. If I wanted my job , I had to join. I think that should be illegal.

  6. ibh says:

    bigjim1 not only are you ignorant you are moron – no understanding of what socialism is or what stands for. For that matter what it means to work for a living and be paid for your labor (ie economics).

  7. swhit says:

    Isn’t this ALREADY a crime? Who are these people – illegals? Just love how they try to manipulate our laws. It’s like they were told before they came here that they could do this and get away with it.
    Unions are what drags a country down.

  8. Noel D says:

    Why is it that Alarcon even still in office,they should have finished the investigation of him falsifying his residency by now and thrown his lying butt out.

  9. noneya says:

    Lori jill myrick who lives at the st moritz hires audience for major network hit gameshows and does not pay her workers they are not given water not allowed restroom breaks not given meal breaks and forced to work ten hours or more at time. overtime is not paid. sro also known as standing room only does not allow breaks brandon skims money off the top they dont pay overtime they dont allow you to get wate or go the bathroom no meal breaks and forced to work illegal hours but they do pay cash below minimum

  10. Paulson Howard says:

    They need such a movement in Phoenix. There is a major employer there, the GoDaddy.com of goofy football commercials, that is being sued in a class action lawsuit for theft of employee wages. This is a company that last year lost an appeal for discrimination against an employee and was forced to pay an exhorbitant amount. The judge also blasted the company for “missing” employment records related to the case.

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