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Florida Good Old Boy Attempts to Enable Wage Theft With House Bill 609

Tom Goodson is the definition of Tea Party chic. He is a posterboy from head to toe, with white hair, a bushy mustache, a smile that makes you quiver and a voting record that places him to the right of even the most staunch conservatives. He’s a good old boy and a throwback to a bad old time time, a time when you were lucky to get paid by the boss man and you didn’t dare complain about mistreatment.

Goodson’s latest work, House Bill 609, is a shining example of Tea Party austerity in that it actually blocks local anti-wage theft ordinances, a truly double negative. HB609, hilariously authored as “wage protection for employees,” has passed Goodson’s Florida subcommittee and will now be voted on by the Florida House. If approved it would take effect on July 1, 2012. With the Congress under the control of the very Republicans swept in by the scrooge McWave that brought the state Rick Scott, the bill is likely to get through.

Earlier this year, Goodson told the Florida Independent:

“I’m a businessman with four companies,” Goodson told The Florida Independent. “I work in four different counties — Brevard, Orange, Volusia and Indian River — and I don’t need four local wage theft ordinances to deal with.”

Goodson said that because state and federal laws supersede local ordinances, he doesn’t “see the purpose” in municipal rules, adding that his legislation, House Bill 241, would benefit businessmen and “everybody who has a payroll.”

In predictable fashion, Goodson bucks the small government championship when it is convenient for him and his pals. Why do things at the state and local level when they can be done by the federal government, right?

Because these are state and local issues, affecting real workers.

Luis, a worker, tells the Independent that his coworkers are owed anywhere from $400 to $1,400 for two to three weeks of work. Luis himself has not been paid since Nov. 21 and is owed $1,175.

Rick Colandreo of CB Constructors — a subsidiary of Current Builders, a member of Associated Builders Contractors and the general contractor at the Lake Houses project — tells the Independent that CB Structures, a subsidiary of CB Constructors, sub-contracted with J&B Construction Services “to do the work that is in question.” They have “apparently have not paid a number of their employees,” Colandreo says.

According to Colandreo, the issue came to the attention of CB Constructors late Monday.

“What Current Builders is trying to do is verify these guys in fact did work at the site,” Colandreo says. “We will need to verify their ID and make certain these guys get paid. You know, these are laborers, doing their job, and just looking for their weekly wage.”

He says workers will get paid: “Realistically, I would say the earliest would be Friday; more realistic might be Monday of next week.”

Colandreo says J&B will not be doing any more work for CB, adding that if workers are undocumented and “cannot come forward with accurate identification, then we would have to defer to our legal counsel to see what we’re obligated to do. We want to make sure that everybody that should legitimately be paid gets paid.”

Before Goodson narrowly won the Republican primary in 2010 and then went unopposed in the predominantly right-leaning district 29, he was a road contractor working on huge construction projects. Goodson Paving employs between 50 to 100 people at all times and makes close to $20 million in annual revenue. He used his successful business to give him Tea Party credibility and then used his newly acquired power to weaken oversight over worker treatment. This isn’t an issue of management thinking workers should be paid less; it is an issue of workers getting paid at all.

Thankfully, local unions are coming out against the bill. It does not only affect union members, it affects all Florida workers.

Dwight Mattingly of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1577 said, “We oppose this bill because it does not fix the problem, but continues to allow unscrupulous employers who are failing to pay workers to get away with that, without penalty. There is mention of provisions in federal law — that takes forever if Department of Labor gets to those.”

Rich Templin of the Florida AFL-CIO said during today’s House hearing that the Department of Labor “documented 9,000 cases of wage theft totaling $28 million in Florida for a two-year period ending Jan. 1 of this year.”

“By the Department of Labor’s own modeling, that represents one third of what probably actually happened in Florida,” Templin said, “Because they acknowledge that the federal guidelines and federal process for resolving these issues is very weak.”

Templin said that under current law, “when this happens to workers, they are forced” to go to the federal government. “We’ve heard so much about the perils of big government,” Templin said. “Yet local governments are trying to deal with this problem and now you are smacking them down.”

Read the entire Florida Independent piece HERE.


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