The Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida has launched a campaign to support the “Wage Protection” bill filed by state Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, which would override local wage theft ordinances like one in Miami-Dade County that aims to prevent employers from cheating workers out of pay they are owed.

When accessed this morning, the Associated Builders and Contractors website said the group

supports the Wage Protection Bill HB 241 (Goodson) /SB 982 (Norman) that is currently making its way through the legislative processes. This legislation would preempt the 67 different counties in Florida from instituting unnecessary and duplicative wage theft ordinances to address the occurrence of non-payment or underpayment of wages earned.

For the record, ABC is against wage theft. We believe that an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay. However, we also believe that there are existing federal and state laws that appropriately and effectively regulate wage and hour disputes between employer and employee. We believe it is therefore unnecessary and disastrous to allow the individual counties to create additional regulatory bodies to address these claims.

Those paragraphs have since been pulled from the organization’s website — the page now says “the issue has been deactivated.” Here’s a screenshot of the page taken this morning:

Builders and Contractors defines itslef as “the AMA, AARP or NRA of the construction industry. ABC has full-time professional legislative staff to interface with all levels of government (local, state and federal), protecting you and your business’ rights in legislative and regulatory areas.”

Jeanette Smith, executive director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, a member organization of the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force writes The Florida Independent via email:

While we appreciate the position of the Associated Builders and Contractors Of Florida that they are against wage theft, as any ethical businesses should be, there seems to be some confusion about the purpose of the Miami-Dade ordinance. The ordinance, which follows a nationwide trend to address wage theft, does not establish a new regulation but simply sets up an accessible process to address local wage theft cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of existing federal laws. It’s the most basic of agreements — people complete their work and should be paid for that work. We would hope that the Associated Builders and Contractors would speak out against wage theft and champion any attempts to address it since, sadly, the construction industry suffers from particularly high levels of wage theft that undermine the business opportunities of “good” employers.

Cynthia Hernandez, associate researcher at Florida International University’s Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (aka RISEP), tells the Independent that statewide, the construction industry holds third place in the number of reported wage theft violation cases.

A RISEP November 2010 report on the impact of the Miami-Dade County wage theft ordinance shows that the construction industry is second in the number of wage theft violations in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

“I’m a businessman with four companies,” state Rep. Goodson told the Independent in February. “I work in four different counties — Brevard, Orange, Volusia and Indian River — and I don’t need four local wage theft ordinances to deal with.”

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