Friday, January 27, 2012

Wage Theft in Florida: an important issue oft linked to trafficking

Groundbreaking Study: WAGE THEFT IS WIDESPREAD IN FLORIDA

The Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University will release a groundbreaking analysis of reported wage theft cases throughout the state of Florida. The report entitled: “Wage Theft: An Economic Drain to Florida. How Millions of Dollars are Stolen from Florida’s Workforce”, estimates that nearly 60-90 million dollars are stolen from Florida’s workforce, impacting communities, law abiding employers and local and state economies.

The report finds that many of Florida’s workforce fall outside of federal labor laws; thus, other enforcement mechanisms such as Miami Dade’s Wage Theft Ordinance are needed to ensure that employees, communities, and local governments will not miss out on millions of stolen wages that are owed to them, and that unscrupulous employers will be penalized for breaking labor laws.

Some findings from this report are:

· Over $28 million of unpaid wages have been recovered by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division in Florida, Miami-Dade’s Wage Theft Ordinance and community groups throughout Florida

· The primary pillars of Florida’s economy are undermined by widespread theft of employees’ wages. Florida’s key industries have the highest numbers of reported wage violations—tourism, retail trade and construction.

· In spite of ample evidence of widespread wage theft among low income workers, as of December 2011, the Florida Attorney General had not brought one single civil action to enforce the state’s minimum wage law enacted in 2004.

· Since the full implementation of the Miami-Dade County Wage Theft Ordinance in September 2010, the Miami-Dade County’s Small Business Development agency has recovered nearly $400,000 in unpaid wages for 313 employees who unlawfully had their wages withheld from them.

· Out of the six counties we analyzed, the largest number of wage theft cases were in Miami-Dade County followed by Hillsborough, Broward, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Orange counties in that order.

The release of the report comes at a time when the Florida legislature is debating a House and Senate bill that would eliminate the Miami-Dade Wage Theft Ordinance, which has collected nearly $400,000 in stolen wages from employees--and pre-empt any other local governments trying to find solutions to wage theft in their communities.

“The negative effects of shortchanging workers’ wages ripple across communities and our state economy. Families suffer when earnings are too low to meet basic needs. Much more can be done by simply enforcing existing wage and hour laws and by creating a statewide process that addresses the problem,” said report author Cynthia Hernandez. “The evidence accumulating of a spreading illegal and ultimately an anti-business practice raises serious questions for a state economy and local economies hoping to attract businesses and employees in order to grow.”

The report will be released on Thursday, January 26. To receive a copy under embargo or for questions, please contact Cynthia S Hernandez at:

chern032@fiu.edu or 786-301-6665

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