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Beckner protests bill that blocks local government from policing "wage theft"



Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner held a news conference Monday to protest legislation that he said would prevent local governments from cracking down on "wage theft."  Beckner, flanked by union representatives from the West Central Florida Federation of Labor, said Senate Bill 862, titled "Wage Protection for Employees" offers the opposite. The bill is sponsored Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.

Two things: The bill appears to be stalled in committee; and it wouldn't take away anything currently in existence in Hillsborough County.

The bill appears to give the state the authority to investigate complaints from workers who allege wages owed to them by an employer have been improperly withheld. It would apply to people who aren't paid for overtime, are made to work extra hours without pay or are otherwise denied their rightful wages.

At the same time, it would prevent local governments from passing ordinances enabling them to police for similar abuses, such as one enacted in 2010 in Miami-Dade County credited with recovering $400,000 in unpaid wages for workers. Hillsborough County does not have a similar ordinance, but Beckner said he will look into the possibility of seeking one if the legislation fails to win approval.

The union representatives said the state doesn't have the manpower to enforce such a law and that federal authorities devote too few investigators to look into complaints. A study by the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University found Hillsborough second behind Miami-Dade in such abusive practices by employers.

"It's not right for our community," Beckner said of the bill. "It's not right for our workers."


[Last modified: Monday, March 5, 2012 8:24pm]


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