BOYLE HEIGHTS(CBSLA.com) — Some labor activists are calling Los Angeles the wage theft capital of the United States.
And that has city council members considering new laws that would crack down on the practice of cheating workers out of pay they’ve earned.
CBS2/KCAL9 political reporter Dave Bryan spoke with restaurant workers who say they’ve fallen victim to wage theft.
Juan Moran and Zumi Mizokami work in a prosperous Little Tokyo restaurant and have both filed wage theft claims which they say are now in the settlement process. They charge the restaurant raided the waiters’ tips. They also allegedly were told to clock out at the end of their shift but required to keep working without pay.
They hesitated to voice complaints for fear of retaliation — which they said did come.
Moran and Mizokami are now activists with a group called Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA).
And, according to a new Labor Department study in California and New York, low-wage workers are especially vulnerable to “wage theft.”
The study, as reported by The New York Times, found more than 300,000 workers in California suffered minimum-wage violations each month in 2011.
Nationwide, more than two million workers reportedly were paid less than the federal or state minimum wage in 2011.
And the study found there were costs to taxpayers, as well.
As a result of the wage violations, school meal programs spent an additional $15.6 million in California, feeding the children of workers who would not have been eligible for the free meals if their parents had been paid in full at work, according to the study.
And annual spending on food stamps reportedly rose by nearly $11 million in California because of the violations.
The employers who are engaged in such practices often take advantage of workers who, for a variety of reasons, are afraid to complain, according to Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary treasurer of the L.A. County Labor Federation.
The L.A. City Council is expected to discuss wage theft during a meeting next week.