Nearly 60 Florida religious leaders issued a letter Wednesday opposing GOP-sponsored bills that would gut Miami-Dade county’s wage theft program.
“As faith leaders in Florida, we are deeply concerned about the crisis of wage theft– the illegal underpayment or nonpayment of workers’ wages,” reads the letter. “By any standard, wage theft is immoral, bad for the economy, unfair to ethical employers and devastating to workers struggling to make ends meet.”
“Miami-Dade County has assisted more than 600 workers in recovering more than $800,000 and another $1.7 million in claims have yet to be fully processed. This is a wonderful, cost-effective program,” adds the letter.
Signed by rabbis, pastors, priests and chaplains, the letter calls upon “all Florida Representatives and Senators to oppose SB 862 and seek ways to support and replicate the Miami-Dade County Wage Theft process.” (Read the full letter below.)
Opponents of the bills, including the Florida AFL-CIO (a statewide federation of labor unions) and the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, say the Miami-Dade county wage theft program can help prevent employers from cheating workers out of the pay they are owed, by allowing them to make claims without having to hire a lawyer.
In the week following the approval of the House version of the bill, community, business, labor and religious leaders have voiced their opposition to the bills and their support for the county’s wage theft program.
Bill Diggs, President and CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, said at a community forum last week that he worried about the legality of the bills. “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.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime did not attack the House bill, but said during the forum that he would talk with county attorneys to see if Miami-Dade has a standing in court to oppose the bill.
Dr. Walter T. Richardson, Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board, sent a letter to members of the Florida Senate last week urging them to oppose SB 862, the Senate version of the bill.
In an op-ed published last week, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, Miami President of the Florida Catholic Conference, stated his support for the county’s wage theft program. Rabbi Solomon Schiff, Director of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, also issued a statement urging members of the state House of Representatives to vote no on the bill, which later passed the House in a 77-38 vote.