Workers who were stiffed out of wages at a Broward County construction project earlier this year (Pic by Marcos Restrepo)

Dr. Walter T. Richardson, Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board, has joined Miami-Dade labor and social justice advocates, business leaders, and members of the clergy in their support of the county’s existing wage theft program.

Richardson sent a letter to members of the Florida Senate last week urging them to oppose SB 862, a bill that would prohibit counties from maintaining laws that create regulations for the purpose of addressing wage theft, the practice of employers stiffing workers out of the wages they are owed.

The House version of the bill (filed by state Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville) preempts the existing Miami-Dade anti-wage theft ordinance that has successfully recovered $400,000 since September 2010.

Writing on behalf of the Community Relations Board, Richardson says that he strongly encourages lawmakers “to oppose a preemption of Miami-Dade County’s successful Wage Theft Ordinance.”

“The passage of the Miami-Dade County Wage Theft Ordinance in 2010 and the mechanisms it creates for the mediation, investigation, and resolution of complaints is celebrated as a major achievement in the pursuit of equal justice for all the residents of our community,” reads Richardson’s letter. “The impact has been significant in improving both the perceptions and the realities of equal opportunity here. Immigrants, low-wage workers, and members of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, in particular, have benefitted.”

Richardson adds that, after hearing from victims of wage theft, the “Community Relations Board acted to strongly encourage our Miami-Dade Mayor and County Commissioners to adopt” the wage theft program.

Other residents of Miami-Dade county have spoken out in support of the county’s existing wage theft program, which is administered by the Office of Small Business Development.

Clergy, labor, and community advocates who spoke last week at Miami’s Church of the Open Door to support economic equality, also spoke out against Goodson’s bill.

Bill Diggs, President, and CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce said that he worried about the legality of the bill. “It bothers me when people say it is right because it is legal,” he said, adding that slavery was once legal, but was never right. “We need to make sure law is created to make us better…It is legal for the one percent to get richer and the 99 percent to get poorer.”

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