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Florida wage theft battle continues

By staff |
March 21, 2013
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Alachua County Wage Theft Task Force member Sheila Payne gathering signatures at
Alachua County Wage Theft Task Force member Sheila Payne gathering signatures at a MLK Jr. Parade. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Gainesville, FL - The Alachua County Wage Theft Task Force went before the Alachua County commissioners on March 12 to demand a solution to the wage theft epidemic in the community.

Faith leaders, workers and community organizers testified as to why Alachua County needs the protection of a strong ordinance (a local law) to protect workers from theft. On Jan. 8 the county commission directed staff to prepare a report on possible solutions to wage theft. The staff came back with three proposals: a strong Miami-Dade style ordinance, a weaker Palm Beach style ordinance, and what they called the Alachua County compromise.

The effort to pass a strong local wage theft ordinance in Alachua County is being complicated by Florida state politicians. State Representative Goodson’s HB1125 and state Senator Bradley’s SB1216 are bills that will outlaw the local ordinance that protects workers. These bills, written by and for the Florida Retail Federation, propose to exempt businesses that do over $500,000 in revenue per year. Under these bills, big business can continue to steal wages on a massive level without facing any penalty. These state legislature bills also limit the amount workers are able to recover, limiting it to disputed wages. Big business would face no penalties for illegal activity, and would provide nothing for damages or the time and effort to go to court. Instead of punishing the corrupt businesses for stealing workers’ wages, the bills would turn wage theft into a free 0% interest loan for the business.

The Florida Retail Federation tried unsuccessfully to pass similar anti-worker bills the previous two years. They also lost a lawsuit in federal court against local ordinances enacted to curb wage theft. Their various failed attempts only go to show the desperation that corporations will go to maintain their legalized theft of working people in Florida. It gives organizers more determination to build a movement that will win new protections for workers.

The anti-worker attacks by corporate lobbyists will not stop the Task Force in Alachua County. Due to the efforts of the task force, the county commission directed their staff to bring back a strong, Miami-Dade style ordinance for their approval at their next meeting. This ordinance is the best answer to the anti-worker bills written by the Florida Retail Federation. The Alachua County Wage Theft Task Force is resolved to protect the working people of Alachua County from both state politicians and the Florida Retail Federation.