Miami-Dade is the first county in the nation to adopt a countywide wage theft law!
Click here to download our Wage Theft Story Booklet in English and Español
Wage Theft Task Force
The Florida Wage Theft Task Force (FLWTTF), an alliance coordinated by the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) that includes immigrant rights organizations, women’s and faith community groups, labor unions, legal services providers, a research institute, a childcare worker/employer alliance, and others, was founded in 2007 out of local Miami synergy round immigrants rights, the defense of day laborers and support for an emerging worker center. It brought together organizations already doing work on these issues to create a new collaboration that would advance this work farther than the organizations could do alone. Beyond simply combating wage theft, we believe that this work will be a huge step forward in growing the workers’ rights movement in Florida. The FLWTTF had received recognition from national organizations such as the National Employment Law Project for our innovative work on this issue and is looked to as a model for change in other parts of the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is wage theft?
- Is this really a problem?
- How does wage theft affect union workers?
- What can we do about it?
- Why the Equal Opportunity Board?
- Won’t there be opposition from businesses?
- How will this campaign benefit all workers?
Wage theft is exactly what it sounds like – stealing wages from workers who have earned them, and it takes a variety of forms:
- Forcing workers to work off the clock,
- Refusing to pay overtime,
- Shaving hours from time cards,
- Paying less than minimum wage,
- Outright refusing to pay for work performed.
These are some of the most common forms of wage theft.
Yes! In South Florida, workers in many industries have their wages stolen – nursery and agricultural workers, construction workers, domestic workers, hotel and restaurant workers, retail workers, and many more. Although it disproportionately affects low-wage workers and immigrant workers, the impact is felt by all workers. When unscrupulous employers get away with stealing wages of certain workers, they tend to violate other laws and labor standards as well. Wage theft affects the community too because it denies workers their livelihood and support for their families, and impacts the local economy.
Unions are the best protection against employer abuses, and unions deal often with wage theft issues. Wage theft is rampant in some industries, especially low wage jobs and especially jobs that tend to employ immigrants. For example even in some large national hotel chains housekeeping workers are routinely forced to work off the clock to finish their number of assigned rooms. But the fact that employers can get away with breaking the law means there is no incentive to hire workers for fair wages. When workers in some jobs are paid below the minimum wage and work in substandard conditions, the quality of other jobs is dragged down too. Allowing employers to get away with stealing some workers wages is a threat to the quality of all jobs and creates a “race to the bottom” for all Florida’s workers.
Local community organizations and legal services providers have been assisting workers with wage theft claims for many years (see reverse side), but we need a systemic solution, not working case by case. That is why the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force is working on a comprehensive strategy that will bring this problem out into the open, provide some relief for workers, and crack down on offending employers.
The EOB is an excellent body for this work because of its experience assisting workers and dealing with employers who do not follow the law. The process is cost-effective and often cases can be resolved with an initial investigation and mediation. But the EOB also has the power to fine and subpoena employers, which are important enforcement mechanisms that community based organizations lack. And going to the EOB would be less costly than small claims court for both employers and employees.
Unscrupulous companies that do not abide by labor laws and do not treat their workers fairly undercut the honest companies that do try to do right by their workers. We must create a level playing field where all companies abide by the same rules and treat their workers well.
Wage theft and other labor standards violations against immigrant workers bring down the standards for all workers. We are building a broad based worker rights movement that brings immigrant workers, labor unions and informal workers together in the struggle for justice and fair treatment.