wage theft

Tag archives for wage theft

Houston lawmakers poised to tackle wage theft

Members of Houston’s City Council held a public hearing this week to discuss a proposed ordinance to beef up sanctions against companies who don’t pay employees their lawfully owed wages. Penalties will include a prohibition from getting city contracts, permits and licenses.

Earlier this month, Florida lawmakers wrapped up their latest legislative session. And nearly 500 miles south of Tallahassee in Miami-Dade County, workers’ rights advocates breathed yet another sigh of relief.

For Angel Nava, Chicago’s newly adopted wage theft ordinance is particularly personal. Until recently, Nava had worked at the same car wash business in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for 14 years. The 55-year-old employee did it all — washing, detailing, buffing — for about 50 hours each week. Then, his boss decided to stop paying overtime.

Occupational Health News Roundup

President Obama will likely nominate Thomas Perez, currently assistant US attorney general for civil rights, to head the Department of Labor; a new report describes exploitation of undocumented workers; and children working in India’s coal mines face on-the-job hazards while missing out on education.

Texas construction workers who’ve lost their lives on unsafe worksites may be gone, but they certainly haven’t been forgotten. Earlier this week, hundreds of Texas workers and their supporters took to the streets to demand legislators do more to stop preventable injury and death on the job.

Texas may boast a booming construction sector, but a deeper look reveals an industry filled with wage theft, payroll fraud, frighteningly lax safety standards, and preventable injury and death. In reality, worker advocates say such conditions are far from the exception — instead, they’ve become the norm.

It’s Tuesday evening and as usual, the small parking lot outside the Workers Defense Project on Austin’s eastside is packed. The dusty lot is strewn with cars and pick-up trucks parked wherever they can fit and get in off the road. I’ve arrived well before the night’s activities begin, so I easily secure a spot. But my gracious guide and translator, a college intern named Alan Garcia, warns me that I might get blocked in. It happens all the time, he says.

For six months, Jorge Rubio worked at a local chain of tortilla bakeries and taquerias in the cities of Brownsville and San Benito, both in the very southern tip of Texas. Rubio, 42, prepared the food, cleaned equipment, served customers. Eventually, he decided to quit after being overworked for months. On his last day of work, his employer refused to pay him the usual $50 for an 11-hour workday.

In the fall of 2011, a new Texas statute took effect against employers who engage in wage theft, putting in place real consequences for employers found guilty of stealing wages from workers. It was a big step forward in a state where wage theft has become as common as cowboy boots and pick-up trucks. It was especially good news for workers in El Paso, where wage theft has become so rampant that workers rights advocates have dubbed it an “epidemic.”

Last month, more than 70 ironworkers walked off an ExxonMobil construction site near Houston, Texas. The workers, known as rodbusters in the industry, weren’t members of a union or backed by powerful organizers; they decided amongst themselves to unite in protest of unsafe working conditions in a state that has the highest construction worker fatality rate in the country.