JERSEY CITY, N.J. – In a unanimous 9-0 vote, led by Fil-Am Council President Rolando Lavarro, the Jersey City Council passed an anti-wage theft law that would protect workers from having their wages stolen by employers.
Lavarro said, “This wage theft ordinance begins to restore the idea that a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.”
Proponents and advocates of the local wage theft law say the current system allows employers to repeatedly violate state wage laws.
A 2008 survey of large cities shows that 64 percent of low wage workers have experienced wage theft, 26 percent were paid under the minimum, and 75 percent were denied overtime, according to the New Jersey Working Families organization.
Yves Nibungco, organizer of Filipino Immigrants and Workers Organizing Project (FIWOP), says victims of wage theft across New Jersey are reluctant to use legal recourse because they are undocumented or are not aware of their rights as workers.
“Yung isang problema kasi no, once na nabigyan ng judgement, hindi nag-aabide sa decision yung mga employer. They think that they can get away with it, not paying their workers properly. So with this, the city helps in enforcing this decision,” he said.
Lavarro said the anti-wage theft ordinance can empower more workers to come out and assert their right to be paid properly.
The new law would allow Jersey City to suspend or revoke the business licenses of employers found to be in violation of state laws on proper compensation for employees.
Lavarro said, “We’ll notify business once a year that they have to resolve their matters or else there’ll be consequences with their particular licenses here in Jersey City.”
Craig Garcia of New Jersey Working Families said, “Employers often don’t pay what they owe them, this will actually force them pay what they’re owed because they won’t be able to operate their business without a business license.”
“It’s a very strong message, and at the same time we from FIWOP would make sure that this information goes out to our community, na alam ng mga kababayan natin na meron ganitong batas para ma-ecnourage sila na mag-file ng kaso laban sa mga employers,” said Nibungco.
Jersey City is the fifth city in New Jersey to adopt a wage theft law.
Proponents and advocates are hoping other cities and states will follow their lead to protect the rights of more workers across the US.
You may contact Don Tagala at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.