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That's Chamber of Commerce (not Wages): Group Pledges Fight Against Wage Theft Bill

A new Wage Theft Prevention Bill that recently passed the California State Assembly could lead to liens on properties of those who fail to correctly pay workers. The bill passed by a 43-27 vote and seeks to curb the growing problem of wage theft by creating more serious punishments for those who commit the act.  

Recent studies have found that wage theft is on the rise, especially among low-wage workers, and that current remedies and punishments are not sufficient to curb it:

“Almost 30 percent of workers surveyed were paid less than the minimum wage in the previous week,” according to the study’s authors, and “and almost 80 percent of workers who worked more than 40 hours a week were not paid the legally required overtime rate of pay.” Other violations that fall into the category of “wage theft” include being denied paid breaks and lunches, and being forced to work off the clock.

What’s more, a 2012 study  from UCLA and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) found that when workers sue to get their stolen wages back, even when they win, they rarely get anything back. In California, the study found, between 2008 and 2011, just 17 percent of workers who prevailed in their wage claims and received a judgment were able to recover any payment at all.

Passage of the bill took a concerted, persuasive effort to buck the Chamber of Commerce, which went all-out to stop the bill, according to Political Research Associates:

The California Chamber of Commerce revved up its lobbying machinery when the bill was first introduced in 2013, beginning with a PR campaign designed to confuse and frighten the electorate. Using every tool at their disposal to spread the word, they falsely claimed the bill could be used to file a lien against a private homeowner if cable or other utility contractors were underpaid for their service calls. The wage theft protection bill subsequently died in committee that year. Afterward, the Cal Chamber gloated about its death in a press release, and on their Facebook page called the bill a “Job Killer,” asserting that “It is patently unfair to hold an innocent third party liable for the alleged, unproven acts of another.”  This claim that “innocent third party” homeowners could have liens placed on their homes for unpaid contractor work done in the home, which Suh says is false, has been repeated over and over in the press.

The bill is heading to the Senate and the Chamber of Commerce is expected to continue its fight. Alexandra Suh, Executive Director of the Los Angeles-based Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance admitted poetically, “It’s definitely going to be a hot summer.”

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