As City Prepares to Vote on Wage Theft Ordinance, Lift Up El Paso Invites Media on Wage Theft Tour
On Thursday, May 28, Lift Up El Paso (a coalition of community organizations and unions) will offer media a guided tour of the wage theft problem in our city —with a mobile tour that will stop to picket at a local wage theft offender, ending with a rally at City Hall, where the El Paso City Council will soon vote on a Wage Theft Ordinance to hold local businesses accountable for fairly paying their workers.
Wage theft is a serious issue in El Paso, where—according to a 2011 wage theft report conducted by Lift Up El Paso—20 percent of low-wage workers receive less than minimum wage, 67 percent of low-wage employees who should receive overtime pay do not, and 12.5 percent of low-wage workers are victims of wage theft. Women were also found to suffer more wage violations than men, with over 27 percent of surveyed women paid below minimum wage compared to 14 percent of men
Sadly, enforcement of state and federal employment laws is ineffective, making city government uniquely able to ensure judgments against bad-actor employers are paid.
This is where Lift Up El Paso comes in. An alliance of non-profit community groups, faith based institutions and labor organizations, the coalition seeks to ensure El Paso City Council makes good on a November, 2011 signed resolution promising to support local victims of wage theft and create local consequences for business offenders. City Council has done nothing to move forward on this, and as a Wage Theft Ordinance is coming up for a vote soon, Lift Up El Paso is keeping the issue top of mind by saying, “Get on the road to fair pay!”
Lift Up El Paso encourages media to join in on the entire JUST WAGES tour or at any of the following stops (contact Eric Murillo for more info 915-301-7633):
UPDATED: THURS. MAY 28 SCHEDULE FOR TOUR AND RALLIES AT WAGE THEFT OFFENDERS
3 p.m. JOIN LIFT UP EL PASO: Armijo Park, S. El Paso
3:30 p.m. AND THEY’RE OFF! Vans leave on tour
4-4:30 p.m. VALENTINA’S RESTAURANT: Picket, press event
4:30-4:45 MARCH TO CITY HALL: Picket, press event
4:45-5:30 EL PASO CITY HALL: Rally and press event
5:30-6 LOAD UP: Return to Armijo Park
"No employee should be left unpaid after a hard day’s work,” says Yadira Cabrera, a Las Palmas Medical Center RN and a National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC)-Texas union leader at the hospital. “As a nurse, I know firsthand what happens when wages don’t allow for covering basic needs. It means people in this community can’t afford to seek medical attention when they need it, and their health suffers. That’s why I support the wage theft ordinance that makes employers more accountable, prevents them from committing such thefts by establishing harsher penalties, and strengthens workers’ rights."
The upcoming ordinance, similar to one recently passed in Houston, proposes not just a ban on city contracts with wage offenders (a measure that would impact some businesses), but also a withholding of city permits and licenses, or refusal to renew permits and licenses (an extra measure Lift Up El Paso insists is necessary to ensure wage offenders not impacted by a contract ban are also held accountable).
Jaremiah Chavez-House of IBEW Local 583 points out that the ordinance would create a fair playing field and also a healthy community, saying, “We support the Lift Up El Paso wage theft ordinance with licenses and permits because employers who don't pay their workers proper wages have an unfair advantage, and our community suffers."
Lift Up El Paso members say they hope Thursday’s tour will open the community’s eyes to the plight of wage theft victims, and to the ways in which the ordinance will help hardworking people thrive.
"All people deserve respect for the work they do,” says Elijah Bidwell, RN, also a member of National Nurses Organizing Committee. “Nurses are concerned with healing, and an enforceable wage theft ordinance works towards healing El Paso!"
The Lift Up El Paso Alliance includes: AFSCME, Border Interfaith, Border Network for Human Rights, the Central Labor Union, Comité de Justicia Laboral, El Paso Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel, EPISO, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 51, National Nurses Organizing Committee, Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, IBEW local 583, La Mujer Obrera and Service Employees Union.
The El Paso Wage Theft Ordinance will be reviewed by the El Paso City Council in June.