Assembly Moves to Curb Wage Theft with Decisive, Bi-Partisan Vote

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De León’s “Fair Day’s Pay” Bill (SB 588) Heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Desk

Sacramento, CA – The California Assembly took decisive, bipartisan action today to curb the widespread crime of wage theft, moving SB 588 (De León), the Fair Day’s Pay Act, to Governor Brown’s desk.

“Today’s bipartisan vote recognizes that California’s inability to hold unscrupulous employers to our bedrock labor laws imperils families of low-wage workers and puts honest businesses at a competitive disadvantage,” said Laphonza Butler, President of the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) California. “With his signature on SB 588, Governor Brown can make real the promise of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work for hard-working people in low-wage jobs.”

The Assembly’s vote comes after workers and community allies have built momentum to combat wage theft at the state and local levels and improve workers’ chances of recovering stolen earnings. Just last week, the California Fair Paycheck Coalition issued a report, “The Dirty Dozen: Snapshots of Corporate Wage Theft in California,” that exposed the economic shifts underlying wage theft and the tricks employers use to evade court orders to pay wages. Workers who’ve had their earnings stolen from these “Dirty Dozen” employers told their stories in the Los Angeles Times’ “Few wage theft victims ever get their back pay,” and in an investigative report from KMEX/Univision television in Los Angeles (download video at https://vimeo.com/138686697).

David Huerta, President of SEIU-United Service Workers West said, “The momentum behind SB 588 was possible because workers from across California are standing up to exploitation on the job. By coming forward with their stories of wage theft, workers are changing the dialogue around the minimum wage to include stronger enforcement in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and cities across our state and nation. SB 588 is the next step in ensuring that workers in low wage industries secure a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

Research by UCLA and the Department of Labor shows that wage theft is pervasive and severe throughout the state. In Los Angeles, more than 8 in 10 low-wage workers – 655,000 people – experience wage theft in any given week, violations that add up to more than 12 percent of their take-home pay each year. Statewide, more than 300,000 minimum wage violations occur every month.

Compounding matters, the vast majority of workers who experience wage theft never collect what they’re owed, even after a court orders their employers to pay. A 2013 study from UCLA and the National Employment Law Project examined the outcomes over 160,000 claims filed with the California Labor Commissioner and found that among those who complete the lengthy process winning a judgment for unpaid wages, only 17% recover any of their stolen wages.

“Having strong laws on the books to protect against wage theft isn’t enough when employers know there’s no consequences to breaking the rules,” said Alexandra Suh, Executive Director of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA). “SB 588 finally gives workers a fair shot at collecting the wages they work hard to earn; this critical bill deserves Gov. Brown’s signature.”

SB 588 enables the labor commissioners to target bad actor employers with stronger enforcement action, prevents scofflaw employers from hiding behind corporate shell games, and empowers the labor commissioner to help workers collect their unpaid wages.

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The California Fair Paycheck Coalition is comprised of dozens of labor, community, and worker’s advocacy groups including SEIU, KIWA, California Labor Federation, California Immigrant Policy Center, National Employment Law Project, Graton Day Labor Center, the Garment Worker Center, the Wage Justice Center and La Raza Centro Legal.

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