Broward County Commission to Vote on Proposed Wage Theft Ordinance
Back on October 9, the Broward County Commission debated on instituting a Wage Recovery Ordinance that would help unpaid workers recover their wages when their employers don't pay the correct amount (or, in some case, don't pay period).
The vote was delayed until Tuesday, October 23, at 2 p.m.
This is a good forward step, considering Broward County has been lagging in adopting the ordinance. Miami-Dade County adopted a Wage Theft Ordinance in 2010, and even Palm Beach County has at least some kind of form of a "wage theft" law (although not as effective as Miami-Dade's).
In the past three years, there have been 5,000 cases of "wage theft" reported in Broward County alone -- the third largest amount in the U.S.
"The commission has been hesitant at recognizing the need," Natalia Jaramillo tells the New Times. "There are a lot of people not protected by law."
Jaramillo, who works for the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, a coalition of organizations that promotes policies to protect workers who are not paid their salaries, says the group was able to promote the passing of the law in Miami-Dade, and is now dedicated to see it through in Broward County.
"We're building a case," she says.
Part of that plan is to show the commission a video put together by the group. The video showcases individuals sharing their stories of wage theft (video below).
"We put together the video because we needed to bring stories to the commissioners about people who have been victims of this," Jaramillo says.
She's encouraged that the vote is taking place, but fears the proposed plan is to fix the problem through a legal aid program, not an ordinance. That basically means offering victims access to a legal aid attorney, if they decide to take their case to court.
"Big businesses are proposing a plan that doesn't work," she says. "Isn't proven."
As of August, the Miami-Dade County Wage Theft Ordinance has been able to successfully recover $511,429.26 in unpaid wages for over 347 workers through conciliation and an additional amount through an administrative hearing process, not a legal aid process, as is being proposed in Tuesday's vote.
Jaramillo and the Florida Wage Theft Task Force is hoping Broward County can institute a similar law than what Miami-Dade has.
But bureaucracy might get in the way. And that's where they hope the message of their video can come into play.
"It's pretty simple," she says. "People just want to get paid."
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