LOS ANGELES, CA – Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a leading provider of free legal services for low-wage workers in Los Angeles, applauded the City Council today for voting to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 and for directing the City Attorney to create an Office of Labor Standards to enforce the wage laws.
“We commend the City Council for taking action to help the men and women whose wages have long been stagnant in the face of soaring expenses,” said Jessie Kornberg, Bet Tzedek’s president and CEO. “Along with the increase in wages, Los Angeles is creating effective means to enforce the minimum wage law so we can shed our unfortunate title as the Wage Theft Capital of America.”
Kornberg cited a recent UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment study that found eight of every 10 low-wage workers in Los Angeles experience wage violations, whether missed hours in their paychecks, lack of legally mandate overtime, or clocking out while continuing to work – to name but a few. Each week, these workers lose $26.2 million in earned pay to these types of violations. Since 2001, Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project has recovered more than $36 million in negotiated settlements or court-awarded judgments for more than 5,400 low-wage worker clients. However, this is a mere fraction of the millions of dollars stolen from a large marginalized workforce each week.
“Without strong enforcement, the wheels of justice grind too slowly for these victims of wage theft,” said Danielle Lang, a Skadden fellow in Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project, citing a recently-filed class-action suit against a large warehouse operation and several staffing agencies for millions in unpaid wages and overtime dating back to 1999. “A minimum wage increase without strong enforcement will leave behind our most vulnerable workers in large local industries from garment to janitorial to construction,” said Lang. Kornberg concluded, “Bet Tzedek commends this first step toward meaningful enforcement that will level the playing field for all employers. With its vote today, the City Council has pledged to make the minimum wage a reality for all, not some, Angelenos.”
About Bet Tzedek
Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek pursues equal justice for all by providing high-quality, free legal services to low-income, disabled and elderly people of all racial and religious backgrounds. One of the nation’s premier public interest law firms, Bet Tzedek uses direct legal service, impact litigation, community outreach and legislative advocacy in the areas of consumer rights, employment rights, elder justice/caregiver law, Holocaust reparations, housing, human trafficking, public benefits and real estate to serve more 20,000 people every year.
About the Employment Rights Project
The Employment Rights Project (ERP) was founded in 2001 to ensure access to justice for low-wage workers and to empower workers to assert and enforce their employment rights. ERP clients typically have little education, speak no or little English, and are highly vulnerable to wage theft and other abuses. They labor in the garment, warehousing, car wash, janitorial, construction, restaurant, and other low-wage industries.