On May 24, 2016, the San Jose City Council unanimously passed a Wage Theft Policy and Ordinance as a result of the advocacy of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition of which the Alexander Community Law Center is a member. The policy requires bidders on city contracts to disclose wage theft judgments or final administrative decisions and prohibits the city from awarding contracts to contractors or subcontractors with unpaid wage theft judgments. The Ordinance permits the City to revoke certain permits from businesses with unpaid wage theft judgments.
Wage theft is the crime of stealing earned wages from workers. It occurs when a worker is paid less than minimum wage, is not paid overtime, is paid only in tips, or works off the clock. Wage theft is a national epidemic – affecting workers in industries that span the economy. It is estimated that the average low-wage worker loses 15% of his or her wages to wage theft each year. And even when workers obtain favorable judgments through legal recourse, they are often unable to collect their stolen wages. According to the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Report, co-authored by Alexander Community Law Center’s Workers’ Rights Supervising Attorney Ruth Silver Taube, of the $8.4 million awarded to workers by the Labor Commission offices in San Jose and Salinas in 2012-2013, workers could collect only $2.8 million.
“Given the severity of this problem in Santa Clara County, this Policy and Ordinance is a major accomplishment because there will now be a powerful wage theft deterrent in San Jose. Santa Clara County and Santa Clara Unified School District previously enacted wage theft policies that apply to their own contractors, but the City of San Jose has gone one step further by also enacting an Ordinance that revokes certain permits the city issues. We urge all cities in the South Bay to adopt similar policies and ordinances to combat wage theft”, says Silver Taube.