Houston City Council Set to Vote on Wage Theft Ordinance November 13th

Houston, TX. The City of Houston, the 4th largest city in the United States, second only to New York City in the number of Fortune 500 headquarters, which as an independent nation would rank as the world’s 30th largest economy has the opportunity to set a historical precedent on November 13th. The likely passage of the proposed Wage Theft Ordinance would make Houston the first city in Texas and only the second major metropolis in the U.S. South to implement real consequences for companies found guilty of wage theft, thus leveling the playing field for ethical businesses that are at a competitive disadvantage against unscrupulous employers.

“As you can imagine, wage theft affected my life emotionally as well as financially. Eventually my dreams vanished as my rightful wages from years of hard work were stolen by an irresponsible employer,” commented Jose Perez, a husband and father who lost his home to foreclosure and was forced to sell his car because he did not receive his earned pay for residential construction work.

Perez and other Houston working families started organizing two years ago to demand City Council take a zero tolerance approach with companies engaging in wage theft. Their dedication is finally paying off with a vote on the proposed Wage Theft Ordinance anticipated for Wednesday, November 13th. The ordinance has been vetted through two Council Committee Hearings and prohibits the City from doing business with companies found guilty of wage theft.

Despite Houston’s overall economic strength and growth, many working families struggle to make ends meet. More than 100 wage and hour violations occur each week[1], affecting workers employed across multiple industries. A recent report estimates that more than $753 million in wages are illegally withheld from low-wage workers in the Houston area each year and nationally studies found that 68% of low-wage workers experienced wage violations each week.[2]

“What frustrates me the most isn’t the impact of wage theft on me personally,” Perez added, “but the fact that these companies that steal our wages get away with little or no consequences. Until it costs employers, wage theft will continue to plague our communities pushing families like mine further into poverty and further from our dreams.”

Who: Affected workers, responsible business owners, community organizations, and faith leaders will speak in favor of the proposed ordinance at the Council Public Session
What: Houston City Council Members hear public comments and vote on proposed Wage Theft Ordinance (copy available at: http://www.houstontx.gov/ordinancefeedback/wagetheft-final.pdf)
When: 9:00am November 13th, 2013
Where: Houston City Hall – Council Chambers (901 Bagby St., 2nd Fl, Houston, Texas 77002)

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Wage and Hour Compliance Action Data.

[2] “Houston, We Have a Wage Theft Problem” (Fe y Justicia Worker Center, 2012) & “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers (National Employment Law Project, 2009)

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