LA city leaders propose new measures to combat wage theft, stress its impact on homelessness

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Saturday, September 2, 2023
LA city leaders propose new measures to combat wage theft
Lawmakers and workers stress homelessness is closely tied to wage theft.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Lawmakers and workers stress homelessness is closely tied to wage theft.

Now, the Los Angeles City Council is taking up two measures that aim to combat these workplace violations in a city deemed the nation's wage theft capital.

"I worked 24-hour shifts, but was only getting paid $110 per day. That's only $4.50 per hour," said Josephine Biclar, describing being overworked and underpaid as a caregiver for two years.

She's part of the Los Angeles Worker Center Network, which just released a paper describing wage theft and homelessness as a dual crisis.

"That is why when seeking solutions to homelessness in our city, we must also include solutions to preventing wage theft and providing opportunities for redress," said Armando Gudiño, executive director of the Los Angeles Worker Center Network. "Several factors cause homelessness, but loss of income is at the top of the list."

"And for Black workers, more so than others, loss of income is frequently tied to racial discrimination," said Jeremiah Gordon with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center.

The network of worker centers is supporting motions introduced by L.A. Councilmembers Hugo Soto-Martinez and Tim McOsker.

One would give the city more power to enforce labor laws.

"Right now we only enforce the wage, but we're not enforcing if people are working off the clock, if they missed their meal break, and other sorts of labor violations that we know cause people to lose money," Soto-Martinez said.

Another motion aims to study how city departments can partner and streamline efforts to combat wage theft.

According to UCLA data cited in the LA Worker Center Network paper, 88% of low-wage workers in L.A. County have reported experiencing violations including, but not limited to: working overtime without pay, getting paid less than minimum wage and working through meal and rest breaks.

Biclar said that with the support of the Pilipino Workers Center and L.A. city leaders, she and her colleagues filed a lawsuit over wage theft.

"And we won. This is why I strongly believe that it is important for the government and community organizations to work together to improve the labor conditions in our city," Biclar said.

The coalition also recommends the city contract community organizations to provide outreach and education on workers' rights. The introduced motions are moving to committees before a full city council vote.