Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

S.F. Activists Launch Anti-Wage Theft Campaign

May 16th, 2011 | Mike Hall

Image: Mike HallSan Francisco workers yesterday kicked off a new citywide campaign to combat wage theft and rallied to mobilize support for a proposed new anti-wage theft law.

Wage theft is a $30 billion a year problem nationally and in the Bay Area, workers in the restaurant, construction, caregiving, manufacturing industries are victims. Tiffany Crain, from the activist group Young Workers United (YWU), says:

It comes in the form of not being paid overtime, not receiving breaks, not being paid at all in some instances, and many other things that are unlawful, work off the clock, they’re told to clock out and told to do other duties and not paid for it.

In 2010, a report released by the Chinese Progressive Association revealed that 1 out of 2 workers in Chinatown restaurants are paid below the minimum wage.  In 2010, the Progressive Workers Alliance helped Bay Area workers recover nearly $500,000 in stolen wages due to wage theft through legal claims, lawsuits, employer negotiations and community campaigns.

The proposed ordinance by city supervisors David Campos and Eric Mar would strengthen requirements that employers post notices and inform workers about the minimum wage and other workers’ rights related to wages and also increase penalties for employers who violate the law.

Crain says the proposed ordinance would benefit employers as well as workers because wage theft “is unfair competition for responsible businesses, and we will work to help promote these good businesses.”

Last week, the group issued their second annual edition of “Dining With Justice,” which highlights food establishments that follow labor laws and treat their employees with dignity and respect.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on May 13, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent.

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