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Florida state Sen. Goodson joins effort to block local anti-wage theft ordinances

State Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, yesterday filed his first bill for the upcoming 2012 legislative session: House Bill 609, which preempts all local laws, ordinances or rules that address wage theft in the state.

State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, yesterday filed the Senate version of the bill. He and Goodson want to prohibit Florida municipalities from “adopting or maintaining” local ordinances that crack down on wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed.

Samantha Hunter Padgett, deputy general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation, told The Florida Independent Tuesday her organization supports Simmons’ bill because “existing state and federal laws address the issues raised in local wage theft ordinances.”

Goodson filed a similar bill during the 2011 legislative session; that measure would have done away with a Miami-Dade anti-wage theft ordinance passed in 2010 that created a process for workers to recover stolen wages. The Retail Federation has a pending court challenge against Miami-Dade’s anti-wage theft ordinance; it supported Goodson’s bill during the 2011 session.

People Engaged in Active Community Efforts — aka PEACE, a coalition of 27 religious congregations from Palm Beach County — told 450 of its members Monday night that it is urgent to continue their campaign to create a countywide anti-wage theft ordinance.

PEACE supports a proposed ordinance to combat wage theft, and has been urging the Palm Beach County Commission to move ahead with the measure.

The Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University issued a report that documents almost 3,700 wage theft violations from August 2006 through August 2010 in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, with more than 1,600 violations from 2008 through 2010 in the accommodation, food services, construction, health care and social assistance industries.

The 2009 Broken Laws Report states that more than 1 million workers in low-wage industries in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City lose more than $56.4 million per week as a result of employment and labor law violations.

Efforts to role back wage theft protection laws are not limited to Florida.

The New York Daily News wrote Tuesday that “at an Oct. 25 meeting of the New York City Regional Economic Development Council, a proposal was made to exempt small businesses from the Wage Theft Prevention Act.” The measure there ” increases penalties for violating – and improves enforcement of – pre-existing wage and hour laws, and adds teeth to the laws that guarantee workers the most basic rights,” like the “right to minimum wage, overtime pay after 40 hours a week and the right to speak up when those rights are violated, without facing threats, illegal firing, and other retaliation as a result.”

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