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Houston Must Aggressively Enforce Its Wage Theft Ordinance

Now that the City of Houston is moving forward with a policy to crack down on employers that steal the wages of workers, the pressure will be on to make it work.  It'll be no small task because, as you well know, those that engage in these crimes against hard-working Texans are pretty slippery characters.  And that's probably being kind about it.  Laura Perez-Boston at the Fe y Justicia Worker Center tells us exactly what the law is designed to do:

“The ordinance establishes a process housed in the Office of the Inspector General through which employees can bring wage claims forward.  Companies with a documented record of wage theft – either final adjudication from a court of competent jurisdiction or a criminal conviction – will be included in a publicly listed database on the City’s website and will be ineligible for city contracts or sub-contracts.  Additionally, any company with a criminal conviction of wage theft will be ineligible to receive occupational permits and licenses.”

Houston City Councilman and Public Safety Committee Chairman Ed Gonzalez told me that not only is the substance of this significant, but the message it sends is important as well.  “The city of Houston does take this seriously, and we do not want to engage with anyone that in any form or fashion is engaged in any kind of wage theft,” he said.  He said there was some downright heartbreaking testimony given during the public hearings in his committee.  “Even very young folks spoke out and said they and their parents had been impacted,” he said.  “These are people who live check-to-check and cannot afford to go without pay even for a week.”

As far as why it took so long for the policy to pass, Gonzalez said that there were interests that tried to make sure the ordinance addressed the concerns of everyone.  Indeed, the council delayed action on the ordinance for quite some time as lobbyists at city hall worked to water it down.  It dragged on for so long that our sources in City Hall suggested that Mayor Annise Parker was privately threatening to make the changes by executive order.  Still, Gonzalez said he was glad there was a robust debate before the ordinance was passed.  “I think that's good policy,” he said.  “We want to make sure that we're doing what's right and it's something that's effective and not simply putting another layer of bureaucracy in the process,” he said.

This is not a partisan issue.  It's about morality and rule-of-law.  Though city council elections in Houston are technically non-partisan, Gonzalez is a proud Democrat.  A proud conservative Republican running for city council, Michael Kubosh, told Texas GOP Vote that he supports the measure and the “companies that are guilty of this practice should not be able to advance their business by stealing from their employees.  Theft is wrong and the city should do its part by not licensing or otherwise doing business with the guilty parties.”


Dirt Cheap's picture

FE Y Worker Center is only in this for the buck, Help passing a law so its easier for undocumented , ILLEGAL can sue companies so they can make a buck. Instead of fighting for laws that are already in place so billion dollar companies cant exploit illegals and take away jobs of the American citizens.
I Ask the undocumented worker that got hurt if he thinks he is hurting anyone that belongs here in the states.
If he taking the job from a person that belongs here, if using a fake ID and SS# is breaking the law ? and turn in this companies that has been using him, from the time he got here to the time he got hurt.
I do not need to read about a organization that its sole purpose is to help illegals to sue companies that do not want to pay the bills of the person that was injured on there jobsite. Go after the billion dollar companies that hire these companies. Your organization wants to sound righteous in telling us what this new law will give back to the citizens of Texas and what it means, But its only to help your cause of helping the people that do not belong here. This law will help the state, All states ! But it should not help ones that has broken laws in order to work illegally in our country and what ever laws they have broken in the past are forgotten about .
If we are to award this , then I see every undocumented worker faking injuries so they can collect money. They are being rewarded for black mail because they know someone is breaking the law in order to get work done at a cheaper rate. They will create law suits because they were hurt. Make sure that all previous hospital bills from the past has been paid from this law suit because this person was using a fake ID . Then you arrest him for the laws that he did commit .
If this company FE Y Justica Worker Center wants to use this person as a example, make sure you tell him of the consequences .

JayW's picture

You seem to think that all workers helped by FyJWC are undocumented. I know a doctor, a minister, a swimming pool guard, a massage therapist, and a residential care worker - none of whom are undocumented - were victims of wage theft. Even Houston CM Jack Christie said his own son - a white, middle class construction worker - was a victim of wage theft. This ordinance can help all people regardless of their immigration status.

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