LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Activists marched outside City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 18, to draw attention to the impact of wage theft on families and to urge Los Angeles leaders to beef up enforcement of laws against it.
Members of the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft set up a sparse dinner table outside the building housing the City Attorney’s office to underscore their point.
Coalition representative Andreyna Baldenegro said that while City Attorney Mike Feuer should be commended for recently filing charges against city contractors who allegedly violated wage theft laws, his office still needs to prepare an ordinance that would strengthen penalties and enforcement efforts.
City leaders have pushed for stronger wage theft laws in Los Angeles since 2009, Baldenegro said.
The coalition contends that as long as wage theft occurs, $3 million a day is taken out of the local economy, and that $26.2 million are stolen from Los Angeles workers each week.
Councilman Paul Koretz, who joined the march, said Los Angeles is the “wage theft capital of the United States.”
“As we look forward to Thanksgiving, we’re saying ‘thanks for nothing’ to those employers in the city of Los Angeles who steal from their workers,” Koretz said. “And this is not a small number. Over a quarter of low wage workers in the city of Los Angeles have been cheated out of either overtime or minimum wage, or in many cases they’re not even paid at all.”
Koretz introduced a motion with Councilman Gil Cedillo in July that instructed the City Attorney to write an ordinance to address wage theft. That ordinance had a 90-day deadline, which the attorney has missed, the group contends.
City officials are studying San Francisco’s wage enforcement models, according to Louis Reyes, an aide to Cedillo.
City attorneys had been expected to have a draft ordinance ready by October. Reyes said city leaders are expecting to take up the wage theft issue in December.
The proposed ordinance would set up a “bureau” to enforce wage theft laws and instituting protections for workers against retaliation when they report wage theft.
The group is also calling for the the proposed law to increase penalties and fees for violations, give workers the ability to sue and collect damages of as much as two times the amount stolen, and give the city the authority to revoke permits held by employers found to be stealing wages.
The coalition held a similar rally during the Halloween holiday in which their members placed mock tombstones on the City Hall lawn painted with the names of workers whose wages were stolen and the amounts owed to them.