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Calif. Labor Advocates Rally for Bill to Combat Wage Theft

Workers and labor advocates are rallying today in Sacramento to combat wage theft and support Senate Bill 588. Credit: cohdra/morguefile.
Workers and labor advocates are rallying today in Sacramento to combat wage theft and support Senate Bill 588. Credit: cohdra/morguefile.
September 1, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Workers and labor advocates are rallying in Sacramento today in support of a bill to combat wage theft by companies that fail to pay workers overtime or give legally-required breaks during work shifts.

Senate Bill 588, known as the "Fair Day's Pay Act," would close loopholes that have allowed some unscrupulous employers to avoid paying judgments when they're found guilty of wage theft.

Alexandra Suh, executive director with the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance in Los Angeles, says only about 15 percent of employees who win judgments are ever paid.

"Workers across California are facing a crisis of wage theft," she says. "Even when they go to the Labor Commission, they win judgments but they cannot collect. SB 588 provides tools to help those workers collect."

The bill has already passed the state Senate and several Assembly committees, and is expected to go before the full Assembly today or Wednesday.

According to a UCLA labor study, workers in Los Angeles lose $1.4 billion a year to wage theft. Suh says employers often change the name of their business to avoid paying judgments – placing an additional burden on employees.

"Workers work six, sometimes seven days a week, but many of them aren't even getting the minimum wage, overtime, meal breaks and rest breaks," she says. "The levels of wage theft are staggering, and people are trying to support their families."

Suh notes the California Chamber of Commerce objected at first to the bill, worrying it would lead to frivolous lawsuits. The bill's authors made adjustments and the chamber dropped its opposition.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA