For Immediate Release
Momentous Step Taken to End Wage Theft
Miami-Dade County Passes Historic Measure Poised to Inspire Others
NATIONWIDE - Miami-Dade County yesterday overwhelmingly passed the first county-wide ordinance in the country to combat wage theft, making it easier for workers to bring legal action against employers who fail to pay or underpay them.
"This is momentous," said Jeanette Smith, Executive Director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
(SFIWJ). "The passing of this legislation will make a difference for
every worker in Miami-Dade County and, hopefully, will encourage groups
all over the country to establish similar mechanisms for workers in
Thursday's vote was the culmination of over a year of work by SFIWJ and the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force. Similar initiatives are being considered by states and cities across the country, including Los Angeles and New Orleans.
"This victory is a spark that will help ignite a wave across the country," said Ted Smukler, Public Policy Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. "It is a shining example of many initiatives underway at the state and local levels
to combat this crime, and demonstrates that there's widespread
political will when people are made aware of the extent of the crisis."
"It's a historic day for all Miami-Dade workers, employers who play by
the rules, taxpayers, our economy, and our community, setting the
precedent for the nation to follow," said Fred Frost, President of the
South Florida AFL-CIO and a member of the wage theft task force.
"This legislation will provide justice for exploited workers using a
streamlined hearing examiner process, at very little cost to our
county," said Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners member Natacha Seijas, the measure's principal sponsor. "I am very pleased that every colleague present today voted in favor of this Ordinance."
"Recovering back wages owed workers will put more money in the local
economy, send a message to crooked employers and create a more level
playing field for honest employers," read a Miami Herald editorial
endorsing the ordinance, which the newspaper argued would "fill a
vacuum" and "be a future deterrent." "Employers would have to pay
employment and workers' compensation taxes they're now avoiding, a
burden for honest employers."
"And now, the real work
begins," said SFIWJ's Smith. "Tomorrow, we go out to the streets and we
talk to workers. We visit congregations. We educate. We involve our
community in a county-wide effort to implement this historic piece of
legislation. The message is clear -- thou shalt not steal. Not in our
community. Not anywhere."
"When raising the minimum wage was blocked at the federal level for 12
years," said IWJ's Smukler, "people took action at the state level and
were successful in winning state campaigns that raised the minimum wage
above the federal level in a majority of states in the country,
creating the momentum that eventually led to raising the national
minimum wage in 2007. We believe that victories like today's in
Miami-Dade County can similarly inspire a wave of policy changes and
legislation at the local, state, and ultimately federal levels, with
the goal of ending wage theft in America."
Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) calls upon our religious values in order to educate, organize, and mobilize the religious community in the U.S. on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for workers, especially low-wage workers.