The House version of a GOP-sponsored bill that would prohibit Florida cities and counties from passing ordinances that crack down on wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed, will appear Wednesday in a Judiciary committee session.

The House bill filed by state Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, already passed a first vote in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in early December, and a second vote in a House subcommittee in early January.

The Florida Wage Theft Task Force issued a press release Tuesday that argues: ”If passed as law at the end of the legislative session, the preemption bill, and its companion, would end Miami-Dade’s successful wage theft program, currently the only one in the state.” The Wage Theft Task Force release adds that Goodson filed the bill “under the argument that Florida does not need a ‘patchwork’ of local ordinances to address wage theft.”

The business lobby that supports the Goodson/Simmons bill includes the Florida Retail Federation, which has a pending court challenge against the Miami-Dade anti-wage theft ordinance, and Associated Builders and Contractors.

Samantha Hunter Padgett, deputy general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation, told the Independent in December that her organization supports Simmons’ bill because “existing state and federal laws address the issues raised in local wage theft ordinances.”

Opponents of the Goodson’s bill have argued since the bill was first filed for the 2011 session that:

  • federal and state labor laws do not protect many Florida workers from wage theft,
  • wage theft remains a widespread problem that affects millions of Floridians,
  • current mechanisms to recover wages stolen from workers are not sufficient, and
  • the Miami-Dade wage theft ordinance does not establish a new regulation but simply sets up an accessible process.

The Wage Theft Task Force also launched a petition calling on Florida Retail Federation executive committee members to “stop wage theft rather than to protect wage thieves.”

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