LA workers rally for wage theft protection, $15 minimum wage

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Oct. 30, 2014

LOS ANGELES – A Halloween-inspired rally happened outside City Hall, as the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft called on the city attorney to speed up the drafts of a wage theft ordinance that would ensure workers get proper pay, and violators prosecuted.

The action comes as City Hall has begun the early stages of pushing for a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour in Los Angeles.

“We need enforcement of the minimum wage,” said Zumi Mizokami, of Restaurant Opportunities Center, “therefore those who are entitled to the minimum wage are getting paid for that.”

City leaders say workers lose $26 million dollars a week in Los Angeles because of wage theft, and all industries are effected from restaurant workers to caregivers.

“We do a lot of overtime,” said Doni Monzon, an emergency medical technician. “They usually get you if you do a lot of overtime, because if it’s 80 per paycheck, you can notice it right away. But if you do a lot of overtime, that’s the time they get about 10 hours of your paycheck, and if you don’t pay attention, good luck.”

The city attorney’s office was expected to have a draft of the wage theft ordinance earlier this month.

“We can’t raise the minimum wage without addressing the issue of enforcement,” said Paul Koretz, LA City Councilman. “Otherwise, those workers currently being cheated out of their wages will remain deep in poverty. We need a wage theft ordinance to ensure that every worker is paid for every hour they work in Los Angeles.”

No matter what the minimum wage is, the wage theft coalition says the scariest number is 17 – the percentage of wage theft claims that are actually paid out.

Tombstones at the rally represent workers who have won wage theft cases, but the numbers show money that was never paid out to them, highlighting the need to enforce wage theft laws.

“We know how much money is owed to them, then we only collect about 17 percent of the time,” said Koretz. “San Francisco as an example, where they have strong wage theft protections, that rate is over 90 percent. We can get there too.”

After the rally, the coalition met with the city attorney, who pledged to consider their suggestions as they continue to draft the ordinance.

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