Wage theft task force approved

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Workers and activists protest wage theft last summer
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

The Board of Supervisors June 5 voted unanimously to create a wage theft task force. The task force will make recommendations to city departments concerning the prevention and correction of wage theft in the city.

Wage theft refers to employers paying less than their employees are due, and can include not paying extra for overtime, not allowing breaks, confiscating tips, and paying less than minimum wage. A 2010 study of labor conditions in Chinatown restaurants conducted by the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) found that some 76 percent of employees did not receive overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, and roughly half were not being paid San Francisco's minimum wage.

The industries where wage theft is prominent range from restaurants and retail to domestic work. 

Approval of the task force is a step forward for groups like CPA that have been working to combat wage theft for years. It builds on the wage theft prevention ordiance, passed last July. The ordinance doubled the fine for employers who retaliate against workers that seek recourse for wage theft, and enhanced the power of the cit's Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement (OLSE).

The Progressive Workers Alliance- a coalition of CPA, Young Workers United, the Filipino Community Center and others- advocated for the task force and helped bring in dozens of supporters to the meeting. 

Workers who suspect that their employers have violated local labor laws often come to these groups for help. Between the OLSA and advocacy groups, the people following up with these claims see a widespread problem. According to Shaw San Liu of the CPA, there are “probably hundreds if not thousands coming forward every year, and there are many more who don’t.” 

“There have been experiments in coordinating with the City Attorney and with the health department to revoke food permits,” said Liu. 

She hopes “the task force will build off these successful examples and see how we can expand them to a more comprehensive strategy.”

 

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