RELEASE: Labor Groups Strongly Support Upcoming Austin City Council Vote To Establish Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance

For Immediate Release
Contact: Juan Benitez, (512) 466-9258, juan.benitez@wdactionfund.org

AUSTIN, TX — Today, Thursday, December 1st, the Austin City Council will vote on the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance, which would amend City Code to combat wage theft. In January of this year, Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution, directing the City Manager to work with community stakeholders and City staff to draft ordinance language. Final language in the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance would do the following: 

  • Create a Wage Theft Coordinator position to assist workers who come forward to report of wage theft violations; 
  • Create a publicly available database of employers in any industry doing business within the City of Austin that have a record of a wage theft adjudication;
  • Bar any employer identified in the wage theft database from entering into contracts with the City of Austin. 

Wage theft is a problem of epic proportion and a larger issue than all other forms of theft. Employers do this by siphoning off a portion of workers’ pay, passing bad checks, demanding overtime but failing to pay for it, misclassifying workers as independent contractors, etc. According to the Economic Policy Institute, minimum wage violations alone amount to a loss of $8 billion for workers each year. A study by Workers Defense Project of the Texas construction industry found that more than one in five construction workers reported being denied payment for their workers, additionally one out of three of workers who try to recover wages are retaliated against by their employer. Almost half (46%) of construction workers in Texas are enrolled in at least one safety net program to bridge the gap between their wages and the cost of supporting a family.  

Representatives from Workers Defense Project, Central Texas Building and Construction Trades Council, LIUNA Local 1095, Equal Justice Center and Central South Carpenters Regional Council issued the following joint-statement: 

“Workers deserve honest pay for all of their work. Period. This Ordinance is more than about publicly shaming employers who fail to pay their workers and exploit their labor. If you don’t want to end up on the database, don’t steal wages. Simple as that. This is about ensuring that we put an end to wage theft in our communities and for workers in our City to be aware of exploitative companies, businesses and bosses who do not deserve our time, talent and treasure.

“No employers who rob workers of their pay–further keeping working people in poverty–should be allowed to conduct business with the City and pocket our taxpayer dollars. The Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance aims to do exactly that and we look forward to seeing Council stand with workers, who at the end of the day, are generating all the wealth in our City yet don’t reap the benefits.” 

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Workers Defense Project is a statewide member-based organization building power for low-wage, immigrant workers across Texas. Through education, organizing and direct services, we empower workers to win fair, safe jobs and become effective advocates for themselves and their communities. 

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