Honorable Mayor and Houston City Council Members,
We represent a group of businesses, community organizations, faith-based groups, and individuals and write to express our concern over the illegal practice and epidemic of wage theft in our city and to call you take action to make Houston a city where work is honored and wage theft is not tolerated.
Wage theft disrespects the sacredness of work, throws working families into crisis and undermines the ability of responsible businesses to compete. We believe that in 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, all of Houston’s residents should be able to prosper.
The repercussions of wage theft are city-wide and affect business owners, consumers, and workers alike. It is time to take action now considering that:
- Wage theft is by definition a wrongful act and a violation of state and federal law; it is stealing from workers what they have rightfully earned.
- Wage theft is unfair competition; employers paying prevailing wages cannot successfully compete with businesses that reduce their production costs by not paying their workers what they are owed.
- Wage theft is particularly egregious in that it disproportionately impacts those who already live in poverty. Workers who aren’t paid are forced to fall back on public safety nets and government assistance in order to keep their families economically afloat, this puts undue pressure on a system that is already facing severe budget cuts.
- Wage theft creates an income loss for the overall Houston economy reducing consumption.
We believe that the Houston City Council can take action to level the playing field for responsible businesses to be able to operate their businesses competitively. We urge you to work with us to:
- Commit to make Houston a Zero Tolerance city for Wage Theft
- Streamline and expedite the process for workers to file civil complaints of wage theft with the City of Houston
- Raise the costs for unscrupulous employers who fail to compensate their employees
As a community of faith, a community of businesses, a community of consumers, as a community of workers, we cannot allow wage theft to continue. We thank you for taking the time to consider this important issue and eagerly await your response.
 City of Houston Website. http://www.houstontx.gov/abouthouston/houstonfacts.html. Accessed 8/23/11
 The report Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers is based on a survey of low wage workers carried out in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago found that a full 68% of low-wage workers had experienced at least one form of workplace abuse in the past workweek. Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities. Annette Bernhardt, Ruth Milkman, NK Theodore, et al, 2008. Available at http://www.unprotectedworkers.org/