Press Advisory
Bradley Cleveland
SMC Union Community Alliance

Local Coalition Responds to Incoming Trump Administration by Stepping Up Efforts to Fight “Wage Theft”

Low-wage workers focus on enforcement “best practices,” including high-tech tools to enforce rising wage laws for all workers, regardless of immigration status

WHAT Low-Wage Workers Describe “Wage Theft” and Offer “Best
Practices” to Fight Wage Theft under the Trump Administration

WHEN Thursday, January 5, 2017, 11 A.M.

WHERE Street Level Health Project
3125 East 15th St, Oakland, CA 94601

WHO Centro Legal de la Raza, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Fight for $15, Oakland Workers Collective, Restaurant Opportunity Center, SMC Community Alliance,, Working Partnerships, Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition

A coalition of organizations, many of which led campaigns to raise the minimum wage in Bay Area cities, are stepping up their efforts to enforce local wage laws and to fight “wage theft” that robs workers of the pay they have earned. With the nomination of a Fast Food executive to lead the U.S. Department of Labor, low-wage workers will
depend on local and state agencies to enforce wage laws.

At the January 5th press conference, advocates and low-wage workers will emphasize that all workers, whether or not they are legally authorized to work in the United States must be paid the minimum wage. Local and state enforcement agencies will investigate wage claims without regard to a worker’s immigration status.

On January 1st, minimum wage workers across the Bay Area saw pay increases of 20% or more, when the wage floor in a dozen cities rose to at least $12 an hour. The state minimum wage only rose 5%, from $10 to $10.50 an hour, and only increased for employers with 26 employees or more

However, workers often do not see these increases due to the persistent problem of wage theft. Wage theft occurs when employers underpay their workers, deny them legally required breaks, fail to pay overtime, force employees to work “off the clock,” misclassify employees as independent contractors, fail to make required
tax and insurance contributions, among other illegal practices. Wage theft is most common in labor intensive industries that pay by the hour—the restaurant industry, construction, and janitorial services—and most prevalent among immigrant workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor has played a key role battling wage theft nationally.  In 2016, its Wage and Hour Division investigated 5,000 cases in the Food Services
Industry, recovering almost $40 million in back wages for 44,700 affected employees. In the Construction Industry, the Division investigated over 3,200 cases, winning $41.7 million for almost 27,000 workers.

With a new administration in Washington D.C. that seems less interested in enforcing workers’ rights, local and state enforcement efforts are critical. Low-wage workers and advocates from Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties will discuss their experience with wage theft and share best practices to ensure employees are fully paid for their work. These best practices include local wage theft ordinances, local-state cooperation, and community-based outreach and education.

Advocates are also deploying high-tech tools — a smart phone app and text messaging platform — to educate workers about their rights under the law, and how to enforce these rights.

Speakers include:

  • Bradley Cleveland from Raise the Wage—San Mateo, demonstrating a text
    messaging tool, which the coalition is using to enforce City of San Mateo’s
    minimum wage ordinance.
  • Ken Jacobs, Chair, UC Berkeley Labor Center, presenting findings from the 2016 study, “Enforcing City Minimum Wage Laws in California.”
  • Rico Jhonson, Fight for $15, Oakland, discussing wage theft at Fast Food establishments.
  • Cesar Sanchez, labor compliance investigator with, discussing Berkeley’s Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance.
  • Derek Schoonmaker of Centro Legal discussing the role of community outreach and education in Oakland’s enforcement efforts.

Please note: Participants will be available for media interviews during and after the press conference. Phone or on-site interviews can be arranged.