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66% of San Jose’s Confirmed Wage Theft Money Goes Unawarded; Ordinance Proposed

San Jose city council chambers

San Jose city council chambers

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San Jose is considering a wage theft ordinance which would help the labor commission recoup lost wages and deny permits and licenses to companies with pending wage theft violations.  The proposal is similar to one passed in Santa Clara County last year.  San Jose’s version is being supported by city council members Don Rocha, Margie Matthews, Ash Kalra, and Magdalena Carrasco.  The ordinance has been sent to the Rules and Open Government Committee.

Court records show that between 2011 and 2014 roughly 1,100 San Jose businesses were on the wrong side of wage theft judgements.  Yet, due to lax regulations, workers had trouble acquiring their back wages.  In 2012 and 2013, Labor Commission officers in San Jose and Salinas awarded workers $8.4 million in back wages, yet only $2.8 million was collected. The proposed wage theft ordinance would close regulatory gaps and help thousands of workers collect back wages each year.

Council members wrote in a memo:

“This issue matters because hard work should be a path to a better life, not to poverty.  We talk a lot about creating jobs here at the city because they help our residents meet their basic needs, raise their families and contribute to our community. Wage theft enforcement is just another step in ensuring that jobs live up to that promise, that they truly are a path to a better life.”

In their proposal, city council members gave the following example of a local worker who became the victim of wage theft:

Priscilla Soriano worked for years at a San Jose group care home as a live-in caregiver. She worked with individuals who have mental and severe physical disabilities, most with limited mobility. She attended to all the client’s needs, including waking up to assist the clients with their needs in the middle of the night. She worked 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, but never got paid overtime. After filing with the Labor Commission in 2011, Priscilla was determined to be owed $64,904 in unpaid wages.

The city council asked that their wage theft proposal be given priority status, arguing that the grassroots efforts already in existence show that the public supports the measure.


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