By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
June 25, 2014
LOS ANGELES – Hundreds of caregivers, restaurant workers, car washers and other low paid workers gathered at the footsteps of Los Angeles City Hall Tuesday as city council members introduced a motion to begin work on drafting a wage theft ordinance in Los Angeles.
“When people work hard and they enter an agreement they need to be paid for that agreement. Their hard work should pay,” said City Councilman Gil Cedillo.
Filipino groups like the Pilipino Workers Center that assist low wage and immigrant workers are among the members of the four-year-old coalition. Tess Mercado of PWC explained this is needed because the problems of wage theft are rampant.
The details of the ordinance have yet to be discussed, but elected officials say it is needed as more employers fail to pay overtime, breaks, and pay checks costing Los Angeles workers $1.4 billion dollars a year, according to a UCLA School of Labor study.
The proposed ordinance will seek to prevent wage theft, criminalize violators and assist victims in recovering their lost wages.
While the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce awaits details, city council members say it’s an economic issue.
“Los Angeles has the highest rate of wage theft in the country. Nearly 80 percent of low wage workers in LA experience wage theft. It’s not just workers that are hurt badly but also the local businesses where those hard earned dollars will be spent,” explained Councilman Paul Koretz.
As LA introduces its proposed ordinance, Filipinos in neighboring Long Beach are also helping in creating its own wage theft initiative.
Filipinos say they are keeping close watch on how the city of nearly 10 million will try to execute this law.
“If a big city like Los Angeles can pass an anti-wage theft ordinance that protects workers, then smaller cities like Long Beach and other places around the LA County area can also pass them. When you pass them in one area it’s like a domino effect,” explained Alex Montances of Long Beach-based Filipino Migrant Center.
Advocates say several cities including San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago have already passed similar initiatives.
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Wage increase need approval from Beijing.