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1,500 Push for Wage Theft Ordinance at PEACE Nehemiah Action 2010
Wage theft was the top issue of focus at the annual PEACE Nehemiah Action Assembly this past Monday. 1,500 community residents gathered for the event, which was held at Palm Beach Lakes High School in the gymnasium.
Wage theft is that which occurs when a worker is paid less (and often none) of what was promised. It is a phenomenon that runs rampant among day laborers, many of them immigrants. However, it is also a huge problem within the hotel and service worker industries. Palm Beach County, of course, boasts large populations in all of the above.
Workers who are the victims of wage theft currently have no recourse. Small claims court costs approximately $300 (filing fee alone – excluding costly attorney fees, etc … ). The federal Department of Labor, whose closest branch is in Miami, has four investigators for the entire South Florida region. Needless to say, the cases they take are the ones with huge losses – not your average landscaper who’s been cheated out of $200.
But that same landscaper, a PEACE member argued during a Testimony portion of the evening, is dependent on that $200 to pay his rent, or feed his family.
Having done significant research into what is being done elsewhere to address the problem, PEACE discovered a recent passage of a Wage Theft Ordinance in Miami-Dade. The Ordinance there will create an office that will investigate claims of wage theft. Victims can file complaints free of charge, and if their claims are deemed legitimate, employers must pay what is owed or face fines from the County.
On Monday night, Commissioners Vana, Koons, Santamaria ,and Taylor all agreed to direct staff to draft a Wage Theft Ordinance here in Palm Beach County, for presentation back to the Board of County Commissioners within three months.
Noticeably absent at this huge grassroots gathering of their constituents were Commissioners Aaronson, Abrams, and Marcus.
The event received coverage from the WPTV / Channel 5, the Palm Beach Post, La Palma, and the Spanish TV station Channel 57 will be airing a special on Saturday and Sunday, April 24th and 25th (at 2 pm both days). Links to the articles are below: