Union reps protest wage-theft bill in Tampa
Representatives of labor unions staged a protest in Tampa Tuesday to proposed legislation that would preclude local governments from passing laws against so-called "wage theft."
A bill outlawing wage-theft ordinances, like one in Miami-Dade County, narrowly passed the House Local & Federal Affairs Committee Tuesday. See more here.
"Unfortunately, the state legislature thinks it knows better than local government," said Aaron Carmella, zone coordinator for the West Central Florida Federation of Labor. "They are doing this without establishing an effective statewide alternative, taking away existing rights from workers under the guise of uniformity."
The dozen or so labor representatives were joined by Hillsborough County commissioner Kevin Beckner outside Frederick B. Karl County Center in downtown Tampa. Beckner said he has been waiting for a decision in a lawsuit challenging the Miami-Dade ordinance, which was resently upheld, before pushing for a similar law in Hillsborough County. He said if the legislation is rejected he likely will push for a local ordinance.
"The practice of wage theft has reached epidemic proportions and it's imperative that it be stopped," Beckner said. He cited the Progressive States Network in saying that Florida has "zero" laws on the books to prevent wage theft, ranking it only with Alabama and Mississippi in that regard.
Restaurant worker Hector Alekos said he has twice experienced wage theft while working in the industry. He said he had received paychecks that reflected that he had worked fewer hours than he had and had his schedule arbitrarily changed so his bosses could avoid paying him overtime.
"If this bill passed we would truly be powerless," Alekos said.